A Farmer’s Viewing Station

by John Grey

He once thought just land was beauty,
or a gold that moved in
whenever the topsoil was exposed

but the crop makes him think
of help that will never come,
dirt that nickels and dimes him to desperation,

and rocks, once necklace now headstone.
Who emptied the Earth, he wonders.
Who dressed the bones hot as a stove.

Everywhere he looks,
fastened to the windows,
stunted fields of corn.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry East and Columbia Review with work upcoming in South Florida Poetry Journal, Hawaii Review and Roanoke Review.

The Witch and the Donkey

by Sophie Kearing

Grating laughter drills up through the floorboards and into our living room.

“She legit sounds like a witch,” I mutter, turning up the volume on our T.V.

“What?” my boyfriend Keagan says, ever tolerant of the antagonistic racket produced by our downstairs neighbors.

“That crazy cackling? Her huge, crooked nose? The black rat’s nest on her head? Slap some green face paint on her and she’d be a dead ringer for the Wicked Witch of the West.”

Keagan tries to cheer me up with a Harry Potter reference. “Should we buy her a broom and make her fly away? Maybe a Nimbus 2000?”

“And waste, like, a thousand galleons on her?”

“You’re right,” he says. “I’d much rather spend all our galleons on butterbeer.”

The next evening, we opt for board games in our kitchen, as it’s usually quieter in there. We’re not playing for five minutes before we hear the bass-filled bray of the witch’s husband.

“Wow,” I say. “He literally sounds like a hungry donkey.”

“Maybe we should feed him,” Keagan says, blowing on the dice superstitiously.

“What do donkeys even eat?”

In the name of research, my boyfriend pulls out his phone. “Looks like… grass… berries… and bark.”

“Well, we don’t have any of that. Too bad they don’t eat ramen or chocolate pudding.”

Later, Keagan and I stand in our bathroom, brushing our teeth and thanking our lucky stars that the only sound beneath our feet is the roar of the neighbors’ shower. But then it starts: the revolting grunts and wails of sex that’s desperate to be heard.

“Oh my god—EW!” I practically throw my toothbrush into its holder and flee into our room.

My boyfriend joins me in bed. “My god,” he laughs. “It seriously sounds like a witch and a donkey mating!”

We pull the covers over our heads and watch YouTube videos on my tablet until we both fall asleep.

Around two a.m., we’re both jolted awake by the cries of the baby downstairs. Angry, we smash our pillows into our heads.

At three a.m., the baby is screeching. My anger has dissolved into a brand of concern that only women know. “Why don’t they just feed him? I legit have milk coming in just listening to him!”

“Ooh, that sounds delicious,” Keagan jokes, slipping his hand under my t-shirt.

I swat him away. “I’m serious. I’m worried.”

By 4 a.m., the baby is issuing horse, ragged shrieks every few minutes.

Tears in my eyes, I whisper, “This is awful.”

Keagan mumbles unintelligibly and rolls over. How on earth can he sleep through this?

My heart aches for the neglected soul downstairs. “He’s confused and scared down there,” I say wetly, perhaps overly fraught due to lack of sleep. Why I haven’t heard the baby’s parents stir or speak once is beyond me. Lord only knows they have no qualms about making their presence known any other time of day.

Three hours later, the alarm on my phone rips me from a dead sleep. I drive to work and move through my blessedly short shift in a bleary-eyed haze. During my commute home, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to nap a few hours before Keagan, who has showings until six today, returns.

The donkey and the witch will be at work, I reason. The baby will be at daycare.
I pull into my building’s parking lot. I am absolutely crestfallen to see the witch’s car, complete with tacky leopard print seat covers and hot pink dice hanging from the rearview mirror. Who the fuck uses neon dice to decorate their car? Are we in a sleazy drug movie from the 90’s? Does this cauldron-stirring hellion run coke at night instead of comforting her screaming child?

Once I’m inside, it becomes obvious that the witch is determined to prove that no, actually, she’s a doting mother. She’s shouting “Peek-a-boo!” so loudly you’d be able to hear it from space. Her exaggerated volume elicits her infant son’s laughter, but it’s the kind that has a hysterical lilt to it. Sure enough, his confused, overtired giggling transitions into sobbing.

So much for the siesta I had planned.

I yank open our broom closet. It’s time to exact some revenge by having a little afternoon vacuuming sesh with the huge, outdated Hoover Keagan’s mom gave us. I take my sweet time, even lifting furniture to get at the carpet beneath it. When I finish, I’m satisfied to find that a quiet stillness has descended upon the building. I lay on the couch and fall asleep almost immediately. Too bad I’m jarred awake a mere ten minutes later by the howling of the pit bull downstairs. Apparently, the donkey has returned home and is howling as well, egging his canine on.

Does no one work nine to five anymore?

I feel crabbier and more tired than I did before I laid down. I stomp into my bedroom and put on my headphones in hopes that I’ll fall back asleep. But all I do is fidget under the sheets, fling off the comforter then pull it back on, prop myself up on pillows then push them to the floor. When Keagan gets home, he lays next to me with his suit still on.

He threads my anger-tossed hair behind my ear. “Rough day?”

“Awful.”

“I have something that might cheer you up.”

Lifelessly, I ask, “What?”

“See for yourself. It’s in my pocket.”

I sigh loudly and throw my forearm over my eyes. “Can’t you see that I’m too tired to play with your boner?”

My boyfriend issues a loud bark of laughter. “Well, I didn’t have a boner before, but all this talk about my boner is giving me a boner.”

I turn away from him.

Keagan gets up, circles the bed, and sits next to me. “Come on. See what’s in my pocket. By the way, perve, I meant my jacket pocket, not my pants pocket.”

I jam my hand into his suit jacket and extract keys. “What are these? Did you buy a new car?”

“They aren’t car keys,” he says, locking eyes with me.

“Oh my god.” I jerk upright. “Are they…?”

“The keys to our new home? Yep.”

“Keagan!” I stand. “Keagan, can we afford a house?”

He chuckles affably. “Of course we can. My commissions have been off the chain and my galleons are piled high. Plus it was a short sale. I practically stole the place, and even better: it’s unoccupied.”

“But… Will I like it?”

“Only if you like walk-in closets, quartz countertops, wood burning fireplaces, and a whole lotta peace and quiet.”

“Oh my god!” I hop excitedly. “OH MY GOD!”

Keagan jumps alongside me. “OH MY GOD, I’M THE BEST!”

We continue pounding around our room and calling out as if in the throes of passion.

Suddenly, there’s a banging below our feet.

“Um, are they taking a broom to their own ceiling?” Keagan asks.

“Thank god we never bought her a Nimbus 2000. That crazy witch clearly already has one.” I climb onto our bed, launch myself off the mattress, and come to a thunderous landing on the hardwood. “YES, KEAGAN! YEEEEEESSS!”

My boyfriend joins in my nonsensical mockery of the witch and the donkey by opening and slamming our dresser drawers while emitting one loud, final moan. When we’re done with our wild celebration, the building is steeped in stunned silence.

“They know there’s no way they can win,” Keagan whispers and pulls me to him. “What do you say we go take a look at the new house, maybe christen it with a few bottles of butterbeer?”

I bring his face to mine for a lingering kiss. “Keagan, I like the way you think.”

A few months later we learn that after we’d left, the police had knocked on our door because of a noise complaint made by the donkey himself. To this day, we have no idea how they were able to decipher the meaning of his pathetic brays over the phone lines.


Sophie Kearing loves drinking coffee, interacting on Twitter, and writing short stories. Her work has been featured by Spelk Fiction, Horror Tree, Ellipsis Zine, Left Hand Publishers, and Moonchild Magazine. She has pieces upcoming in Mojave Heart Review and Jolly Horror Press. Find her on Twitter @SophieKearing.

The Racist New Year’s Bang!

by River Rivers
(edited by Rachel Macklin)

Sometimes all it takes to drown out ignorance and hate is a loud bang–preferably the pyrotechnic kind. And this New Year’s Eve, I’d had a lot of that shit tossed my way thanks to social media. Some days it’s hard being Native, and this was one of them.

Moments ago, I’d muted my Twitter notifications and turned off my phone because earlier today, Elizabeth “I’m 1/1-billionth Native American” Warren decided to throw her hat in the ring for President. Naturally, it brought the trolls out of the woodwork, but these weren’t your run-of-the mill mudslingers. They used Native slurs and offensive jokes to attack her, without thinking of the damage it did to our community. In some twisted part of their hater brains, they thought ‘Injun’ and ‘Chief’ jokes were supporting us. I didn’t like her false claim of heritage, but the backlash from colonizers was a thousand times worse.

Fuck that, and fuck their Fauxahontas bullshit. I had to walk away and find peace or I’d explode.

I stared in silence at the darkened sky as fog rolled over the mountains’ silhouette beyond. A flashlight and lighter rested in my hands while the clock ticked toward midnight. In front of me sat a pyro’s dream of assorted fireworks–all illegal and therefore perfect for the task at hand. When the earth officially completed its lap around the sun, I’d light the fuckers up. Only a dazzling chemical combustion could cleanse me from life and the evening’s chaos.

I tried not to think about how much the trolls really got to me. They’re trolls: spewing hate is what they do and I shouldn’t pay any attention. But I’m Native, so I’m part of a long line of people who spent their lives putting up with ignorance. After centuries of this crap, your bullshit meter wears down until it’s impossible not to take things personally.

One troll showed his true colors with a burst of racist rants against Natives after I asked another colonizer not to say Injun. He tried to wriggle off the hook by white-splaining that his jokes were a jab at ignorant white people and stereotypes. “Of course I didn’t mean any offense to the Indigenous.” This from a guy whose bio read like bumper-sticker bingo for God and country. What a load of garbage. He was a man pretending to stand for something and was really sitting down for nothing. His hypocrisy stunk worse than the scent of sulfur coming from my fireworks display.

Other Natives tried to step in and educate him, but he didn’t care. He kept on white-splaining his excuses to us in the typical manner of someone doubling down on bad behavior. He even wrote a numbered list of Why He Was Right and We Were Wrong, which went something like this:

I don’t give a crap. (Obviously)
You don’t speak for all Native Americans. (No, but I am an actual Native telling you I’m offended)
Injun isn’t inherently offensive. (It’s an anglicized bastardization of Indian used to dehumanize Natives during colonization and enforce lazy white speak, so you tell me)
I didn’t tell anyone how to feel. (No, you threw out hate vomit and got pissed people called you on it)
I hope you feel stupid for posting a stupid comment. (…?)

I wanted to go off on him. I wanted to say he was promoting Pan-Indianism, ignoring tribal distinctions, and tokenizing the Natives who might agree with him. He was a classic example of the white Christian proverb: “How is that racist?”

But like many of my people who have come before me, I was too drained to keep up the fight. I didn’t choose to be the intolerance police and if I’m honest, there’s times when I resent the role. Let someone else educate the ignorant bastard.

So I stepped back and let other voices take the lead, and I wasn’t disappointed. They tore into his false claims with surgical precision, sharing personal experience and historical resources. Suddenly, the troll’s entitlement was on full display in a public forum, and time would make him irrelevant. In that moment, I saw hope. I saw the reflection of years to come and realized our voices would only grow louder, while those like his would fade into silence.

I also realized it was time to unplug and shift to positive things. I had a girl I liked coming over and a boatload of illegal fireworks that required my attention.

I flicked the lighter with my thumb and flame sparked in the night. I bent over and set fire to the first wick–a fine box of gunpowder aptly named Infinite Storm.

As I watched the wick burn, a sense of pride for my people rose inside me. The sky was the limit from here on out. We’re resilient and our souls know no boundary. In 2019, I would devote myself to writing my personal Indigenous experiences. That was my resolution.

With a massive crackle, the firework ignited in a cascade of glittering light and a shiver of excitement crept up my spine. My white friend’s family whooped and shouted as we rang in the new year, and I finally accepted I was exactly where I was meant to be.

When the initial white-hot lights disappeared, I lit another blast to keep them going, then another, until all twelve boxes were nothing but burned-out shells. And somewhere between the reverberating booms and radiant, color-soaked sky, I forgot about the trolls, the hate, and the constant white noise of intolerance. I focused on all the love I had to give the world.

This year was for me. Not for him.


River Rivers, is an emerging writer from Southern Oregon. He is a Modoc and Klamath American Indian. His most recent stories are currently featured in Literally Stories, TallTaleTv, Snow Leopard Publishing, the Drabble Dark Anthology, Paper Trains Literary Journal and Daedalus Magazine.

You can follow River Rivers on Twitter @Catch22Fiction and on instagram @riverrivers921.

The Animals

by Vera Pastore

And the rains stopped, all across the land. Stopped.

The quiet—it hung heavy. It always did. But this time it was so heavy that it was almost visible. Heavy as if each particle of dust in the universe suddenly had been ordered to hold a certain spot mid-air, uniting in a group effort for a particular purpose. Heavy like a stack of unread books unable to be lifted because the glitter between the pages was yet to be sifted out.

Slowly each animal broke through the curtain of quiet and peeped out of its place of refuge, turning first this way and then that, surveying the scene, comparing it to the familiar. They saw that the world—as they knew it—was still there. It was just soaked with the invisible tears of the one above.

And now, stepping out with less trepidation, they ventured back to their paths, because for the moment, all was well. But not being gullible, they knew it would happen again. They were sure of it.

You see, there was a pattern to these rains. But the quiet—the quiet—seemed to be getting worse, and that was something to ponder. For today, though, the running was over, and the sun was back in charge.


Vera Pastore, owner of Word Choreography, writes, edits, and proofreads business materials and books. She counsels writers of all levels on next steps in her free Writing Triage program at local libraries. She writes poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and encourages the use of the Oxford comma.