Monday, May 23, 2016

#202: "Lot's Wife" by Lois Marie Harrod

~This poem was first published in Slant (2000).

Lot's Wife

Even the woman
who was never beautiful
is grateful when

after chemotherapy
her hair returns,
spiky little flames.

For a month or two
she spins,
French waif

catching herself
in the sun’s eye,
who was she?

So why do we blame
the salt woman
who wanted to see

not where she had been
but what?

Everything lies
in the season
we do not understand.

These are the pictures
of what we were,
lovelier than we imagined.

Even our children are amazed.


Monday, May 9, 2016

#201: "Chamber Music" by Vic Sizemore

~This story was first published in Southern Humanities Review (2013).
~Selected by Assistant Editor Kenneth A. Fleming

            Courtney parks her Prius at the top of Matt’s driveway because Brandon’s blue Mongoose bicycle is sprawled across it. The blazing yellow forsythia at the edge of the drive runs down and is starting to swallow the corner of his house. It’s pretty, just out of control, needs a little tending. A lot of tending. The smell of cut grass wafts from the neighbor’s yard, where a fat man without a shirt on is riding a slow roaring mower.
She grabs her plastic tub of bruschetta—she made it with organic onions and heirloom tomatoes from the co-op, and her own fresh basil—and her grocery bag with baguette and knife and garlic from beside her on the seat and gets out. She closes the door with her hip and picks her way through scattered toys and sidewalk chalk in the carport. The kids’ bodies are traced on the drive in chalk, like victims’ outlines in crime shows. And there is Matt’s outline. Some child has filled him in, drawn him with big round green eyes and jagged blue monster teeth. Matt’s a gentle man, a gentle father. Almost passive. It makes things easy between him and Courtney. The ex-wife, not so much.
The wooden rail at the door is half stripped of its peeling white paint. One whole side is draped in beach towels, turquoise and blue with fish on one, one black with bright pink butterflies, another with blue and yellow flowers. At the back of the carport a blue tarp is balled up like a giant sheet of discarded paper. Beside it are three nylon camping chairs, and a faded bottle of OFF! Clean Feel bug spray. Beside the kitchen door leans a gray snow shovel. The sticker is still on the wooden handle. It says Ames: Our Tools Built America.
Matt gave Courtney a key to his place only yesterday, before leaving for his conference. So she could meet the kids after school. Also yesterday he asked her to consider marrying him. When she didn’t respond with immediate glee—things between the two of them are great, it’s not that; everything is just easy—he backed off a little. “Don’t answer now,” he said. “We’ll discuss it when I get home.”
The little black cylinder thing that should pull the screen door hissing back is broken and jabs out at her leg as the white aluminum door drifts and hangs open like a broken wing. It’s ridiculous to be nervous. Courtney has been a Shreveport Wideman semifinalist. She’s concertized, performed Stravinsky Petrushka, Shoenberg. Berg Sonata. She was with management, soloed with the Honolulu Orchestra right before it folded.  This is just three little kids.

Monday, April 25, 2016

#200: Two Hundred Posts! Let's Celebrate!!

Today we reach a milestone of two hundred posts! That’s two hundred excellent stories, essays, and poems that have been published in print journals but that have not been made available to the wider world of an online audience…until Redux printed them!

Among these 200 posts are examples of a very first publication, pieces that suffered in the print publication process, pieces that didn’t fit into story collections, poems that are now in books, and, of course, pieces that will make you laugh and that will make you cry. It is a joy and an honor to have founded this space with its simple mission of seeking out previously published work that deserves online exposure. Along the way, I’ve “met” (on social media) and met (in real life) so many new writers, watching my own world widen and grow.

Thanks to those who have helped Redux along the way, generously donating their advice and time: Deborah Ager, Marlin Barton, Sandra Beasley, Steve Ello, Kenneth A. Fleming, Rachel Hall, Anna Leahy, Joseph M. Schuster, Bill Skillern, and Susan Tekulve.

And thank you to all the writers who have contributed their work. Your words have enriched my life.

For your reading pleasure:

The 10 most popular pieces in Redux’s first 200 posts, presented in alphabetical order:

12 additional pieces, selected by me from the 50 most popular posts, presented in alphabetical order (oh, but it was SO hard to choose!!):

On to the next 200! 

~~Leslie Pietrzyk, Editor & Founder of Redux

Monday, April 18, 2016

#199: Two Poems by Derek Mong

~This poem previously appeared in from American Literary Review (2012).

Midnight at the School of Cosmetology

     and the mannequins, vacant
as Caesars in their hall of mirrors,

enthrall a night watchman.
His fingers trace their root holes’

perfect rows. This Styrofoam,
bald as the gibbous moon, outlives

the follicles of a thousand women
thinking. Last week the imported hair

shone fulgent as polygraph ink
and delicate as relics.

He still recalls its boxed arrival—
bangs, pigtails, wigs—whirlpools

of third world beauty
cut to train beauticians of tomorrow.

And though he doesn’t fetishize
its climate or cuisine—pelmeni

in mayonnaise, rain sieved
from a tin roof’s runoff—he’s breathed

that hair before the students
kerosened it scentless.  

There is a world pressed between
a harvest and its dreaming. 

There is a hallway he taps his night-
stick back through, luminous

as the one he entered. All night
hairdos never to travel back overseas

dissolve in the field behind
the building. When his shift ends

he walks home and clicks the TV on.
He turns to stone till morning.



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

#198: "Preserved" by Douglas W. Milliken

~This essay was previously published as “Preservation with Clapboard Gaps” in Salt (2007).
~Selected by Assistant Editor Kenneth A. Fleming

The company truck’s bumper has a pink and black sticker that reads Happiness is Being in the Barn, but right now there is very little barn left within which to be happy. Like an anxious patient on a papered bed, the barn in Hollis Center, Maine, waits on frosted mud with its broadside open and exposed, its old timber frame bathed in pale October light.
            “This was a beautiful barn,” Scott Hatch says from the yard, admiring the building’s uncovered network of right triangles and hemlock. “A classic English barn, immune to gravity, probably outlived a dozen or more owners. Beautiful.” Scott squints against the sun. “Then somebody built an addition to it and opened up a can of worms.”
            Stitched to the barn’s side like an awkward new appendage, the shabby annex gradually sank in its foundation, wrenching the conjoined barn backward as it rotted, skewing it into a parallelogram. Scott turns away, settles stoutly into his excavator’s cockpit, ignites the engine roaring. The addition has long since collapsed and been trucked away to the burn pile. But the original barn still stands a chance.
            Guiding his excavator over rocks and mud to the rear gable-end of the barn, Scott, self-proclaimed barn wright and owner of the Barn Wright Inc., extends the hydraulic arm and nudges the bucket against the exterior wall. Near the machine’s nest of levers, a red retractable leash hangs from the cockpit cage: Spencer, the crew dog, stayed home today. His lips curled as if to break into sudden laughter, Scott yells over the engine’s drone, “Alright, let’s put the pressure to ‘er.”
            Spanning from where the barn’s rear corner post meets the roof plate, two metal cables stretch diagonally like tendons across the open broadside, winding into the spooled bellies of two comealongs, or hand-winches: one is bound to the base of the front corner post; the other is strapped to a tree. Hunching forward, Scott’s apprentice barn wrights, Dave Rose and Joe Marshall, grab the comealong handles and crank.
            The excavator bucket prods the leaning barn; the comealongs gather the slack. Inch by creaking inch, the parallelogram becomes a square.
            Calling for a halt, Scott shuts down the machine, hops to the ground, and checks with a speed-square the angle between corner post and floor. “Ninety-one degrees,” he laughs. “A little overzealous in our approach, I think.”
            Joe chuckles and runs a hand across his premature bald spot, his blonde goatee. A smile hidden within his coarse black beard, Dave adjusts his comealong, barely slackening the cable’s tension.
            Checking again: “Ninety. Perfect.”
            In less than one minute, Scott, Dave, and Joe pushed and pulled a two-hundred-year old barn and returned it square and plumb.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

#197: The Remedy by Tim Mayo

 ~ This poem was first published in River Styx (2011).

You were fat in those days: neglect

had slipped like a towel from your waist
showing the whole world the soft rolls of yourself.

How it all glowed under your skin
like a radium dial,

becoming in the end:
a thick envelope for a thin heart.

And on summer nights, when the heat
dripped off the leaves like fat caterpillars,

you’d hang out sniffing cognac, putting on airs
in the only class restaurant around.

Those were the days when haute cuisine
were still foreign words
meaning something more than meatloaf.

How it moved you purposely along
up an invisible ladder
toward some new decorum.

Still, you dared to ask the slim dishwasher,
her first night ever on a job,

to go for a swim after work.

She was a young slip of a blonde with corkscrew hair,
whose father had wired your house and whose lightning wrath
you had never known,

but always feared
like a biblical child fears his Maker.

Nonetheless, somewhere in that part of your brain,
where things dwelled under the surface,
as quiet as crocodiles,                                    

you both knew the pitter-patter
and thump of your intent.                      


There is a safety in numbers
when a handful of strangers all begin to disrobe at once,
side by side,
in the sweltering privacy of their own dark space.

Everyone concentrates so hard
to liberate their right foot
from the left leg of their lonely lives,

they see nothing else, and nakedness goes unnoticed.

(But let’s forget about the others.
They are irrelevant.)

The two of you slip into the water
as pat as opposable thumbs.

You swim out to the raft
where a host of faceless bodies
loll about like Romans.

The idea of numbers is still in play.

Then, one by one, the faceless bathers
roll off the raft and swim away,

taking with them the peeled grapes
and nibbling minnows of their hands,

and only the two of you are left to count the stars.


You know how it is about the dark,

how even in a moonless sky
the night stars can seem strong enough
to show you things as if it were day.                        

That’s when you noticed                    
the statuary-beauty of her body,

(as if your art had suddenly found art)      

but what you remember most about that night,
and knew you would,

as you stood watching

her leggy presence
cross and uncross itself,

before she reached up to, finally,
clasp her hands behind the bustle of curls
bedding her head

––so unabashedly at ease––so unafraid––willing to show you––

every delicate portion and pocket
of her being,

that it was hard to believe she was that young,
and that you did not touch her––not out of fear––
nor youth––nor even any unwritten law of decency––

but out of an inkling that, one day, this memory
of her fearless poise would be more precious
to you than what you sought.


Monday, March 21, 2016

#196: "Somebody for Everybody" by Kathy Flann

~This story first appeared in The North American Review (2011).

How he had knocked, Francine could not guess. But here he was. Or at least here was his head. Floating in the hallway outside her apartment, as if it had wafted over on the aroma of Mrs. Singh’s stir-fry. Here was the sun-kissed face from his profile. The broad forehead and faintly hooked nose. Somehow, though, it had seemed like the head would be attached to an equally rugged, sun-kissed body. Had it been presumptuous to assume, at the very least, a torso?
The two of them blinked at one another. Why hadn’t she thought to use the peephole?  Then again, would that have painted the picture? Maybe the best thing to do was to back into her apartment, real easy, pretend she hadn’t noticed anything out here, go back to listening to big band music in the living room and waiting for her date to show up – her whole date.
“You can’t send a guy flirty emails for two weeks and then close the door in his face just because he’s different,” he said. He slurred his words, and he sank as if deflated, hovering over the carpet. Against its Persian pattern, he was like a genie. She caught a glimpse of his bald spot – another thing the photo didn’t reveal. No wishes to be granted today, it seemed. Down at shin-level, he tilted his face to look up at her, eyes bloodshot.
“Are you… drunk?” She felt a flush of shame about their electronic repartee, the quick-fire IM chats about politics and old flames.
“I don’t know why I bother with dating,” he muttered.
It now seemed significant that he’d left blank all of the slots for physical characteristics on his profile. Francine had assumed that he was simply too busy (i.e.successful) at his job as a trial attorney to bother. Or at worst, that he was unusually short. Which would have been okay – Francine had dated a jockey once, when she lived back in her hometown of Smoky Ordinary, Virginia. But this….