Friday, 25 May 2018

Little Holocausts

by Susan Tepper

Harry is late picking me up at the train. Everyone else whisked into taxis or already collected.  I stand outside the old station house looking toward the frozen fields surrounding Cambridge.  It took some doing to pry loose from London but I got here. It feels much colder. Windy. I’m thinking Where the hell can he be, when a brown Rolls of some ancient vintage lumbers slowly in my direction.  
Leaving the car running Harry emerges, stiff-looking, pale; corpse-like. Coming toward me without actually taking me in. Typical Harry. Kissing my cheeks European-style yet still managing to maintain distance. He was always a big phony. The type to put people down when he and Jack were in Med school. With his tweeds, peaked cap and rakish scarf, he’s playing his ex-pat status to the hilt. More than a touch of British in his Hallo darling. 
 Inside the old car feels stuffy. Tight. Seems hardly able to move over 30 mph. But, Cambridge. A breathless stone place full of history; though I have to crane my neck to actually see it. He’s skirting the old city, driving its perimeters. 
As if reading my mind, he announces, “Paula, I’m giving you the full sightseeing tour.”
Of the fields and open areas?
So far he hasn’t said a word about Jack not being along. Instead rambling on about Maggie and the kids, mindless stuff. Finally he pops his first question. “How was the train?” 
They do have a Cambridge address – though not Cambridge. Not the Cambridge I have come to wander. I wave goodbye to the stone as it flattens into pure countryside. Harry ignores my hand flapping at the window. 


In their ample house they keep me occupied with this meal or that, high tea, discussions of films and books, plus a showing of every piece of jewelry Maggie has ever designed. Even the garden must be toured – though it’s winter. As if they’re afraid that once out of reach I’ll run away. I will. I’ll run like hell! I know in the first twenty minutes.
It’s a strange mix – their home. Large, sparsely furnished rooms with traditional thick moldings, a rickety antique chair placed here and there, small lamp tables, the velvet loveseat in a salmon color, threadbare Oriental rugs scattered haphazardly. Yet the kitchen has been entirely redone contemporary Milan style; a wrap of stainless steel and granite. Last time I visited, with Jack, they owned a townhouse in Maida Vale. It may have held this same furniture. In the narrow up and down of that place this furniture would have looked appropriate. Here, in the high ceilinged rooms, everything seems miniaturized. Scaled down; brought to its knees. Passing their giant Christmas tree I touch a branch as if to confirm its authenticity among the living. When I pass through the rooms my footsteps on the wood floors echo.  
Maggie is still lovely but much heavier. Her blonde signature blunt cut, flirty and swingy, has been replaced by a severe bun. A flowing black tunic top doesn’t hide her hips. “Paula you are still thin,” she said immediately upon seeing me. 
They have set me up in the guest room. It was Lauren’s before she went to college and then on her own. A few pieces of girl clothing remain in the closet. I touch them, but can’t feel Lauren in the fabric which is blank, anonymous. I remember a sweet freckled girl with a ponytail. She and Maggie didn’t get along. Around them always felt prickly, Harry jumping in to smooth things over. Lauren was Daddy’s girl. While Cody, our son, is part me and part Jack. If he were still a little boy, and we had to divide him, neither of us could live. It’s one of the few things about our marriage that I still believe. Jack believes he loves Cody more. What an insane idea! Who can decide they love better than someone else? After all, I am his mother. Every dark-haired beautiful boy on a skateboard flying past brings me back to Cody.   


In the twin-sized bed I can’t relax. I’ve gotten used to the London luxury of king bed and six down pillows, fluffy white duvet. Though perfectly adequate, this feels a bit like camping out. At night Harry shuts the heat way down. 
“It’s pure cheapness,” Maggie tells me in the morning. She rushes out of the kitchen returning with a thick wool sweater. “Here, put this on.”
“I’m fine.”
“You’re shivering.” She bundles me into the sweater hugging me tight. Dear Maggie. Sister I never had.
“Harry’s got more money than God,” she whispers. “We’ll turn it up while he’s in the shower.”
“Harry won’t let you turn up the heat?”
She’s moved to the stove unwrapping bacon, placing slices in an iron skillet. I watch as they start to sizzle. “A nice hot breakfast to help warm you,” she says.
It’s been decades since she left Germany. First to Cambridge in the States where she met Harry, now to Cambridge here. Her voice still carries that dark, throaty hush that makes me think of the Black Forest. I’m second generation Jewish on my father’s side. Jewish will always be Jewish, he used to say; and that you can’t be a little Jewish. Of Maggie’s childhood I don’t know much, other than her parents starved after the war. All of Europe starved after the war, Jack would say –  whenever I relayed her stories about them having no milk or bread. I don’t know whether he actually likes Maggie. The jewelry she creates are little holocausts –  twisted metals that turn in on themselves. Blood colors in the enamels and the stones she sets perfectly. I’m imagining Jack’s caustic remarks about the tiny oven she’s so proud of; where she bakes the enamel brooches and earrings. Maggie, my friend. Magda. I want to take her away.
             “Are you sure you want to stay here, Maggie?” Perched on a stool at the center island I study the gray granite. Icy under my hands. She looks up from cooking, her china-blue eyes clouding over. 
“Paula, they don’t like me here. The English still despise the Germans. You know I had them all over for high tea, once, the women from my book group. They never reciprocated. No one ever invited me back. I wasn’t even born during that war.”
“How terrible for you.”
She’s turning the bacon slices carefully. “I get so lonely. But Harry adores it here. Says he’s finally come home. He makes believe he’s English, takes all the classes, does the pub thing, the cocktail parties. Can you imagine? He was adopted, you know. His adoptive father was British but from generations back. So cold to Harry growing up.” I watch her draining the bacon on a paper towel.
“That smells good,” I say.     
“Yes.” She makes a short laugh. “Harry always had one woman or another. When he was hopping over to the continent for those medical conferences. Now he’s older. Tired. It’s harder these days to just hop a plane with so much increased security.”
Not really, I’m thinking. I just hop planes. Trains. Change where I live in an instant. It’s not hard at all, taking off your shoes and submitting to a pat-down – no big deal if you are intent on a fuck. 
“Maggie, those women – didn’t it bother you?”
She shrugs cracking eggs into a steel bowl.
How damned European of her. Most American women don’t play by those rules. They leave, kill, or cheat back with a vengeance. 
“We don’t have screens on these windows,” she’s saying. “It’s impossible to find screens here.”
“Hm?” I gaze toward where she’s pointing. “What about flies in the summer?”
“We don’t get them.” She’s whisking the eggs furiously. “Harry said you left Jack.”
No flies in Cambridge.
“Really?” It’s all I can think of to say.


* * * * *

"Little Holocausts" is part of a new novel in progress by Susan Tepper.

More about Susan Tepper's widely published work can be found at

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Time Is Fading

by Kelli J Gavin

Speak softly
Speak quickly
Time is fading
Speak deeply
Speak truthfully
Time is fading
Speak honestly
Speak candidly
Time is fading

Stop speaking
Just hold me
Time is fading
Hold me close
Hold me tighter
Time is fading
Closer now
Tighter now
Time is fading

* * * * *

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of 22 years and two crazy kids. She is a Writer, a Professional Organizer and owns two companies. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you). Check out Kelli J Gavin on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram: @KelliJGavin and her blog:

Wednesday, 23 May 2018


by Kelli J Gavin

I love your smile.
No, not your smile.
That moment before you smile.
That moment when your eyes light up.
When your eyes shine.
When your eyes glint as if at a moment's notice, they will fill with tears.
When the small lines by your eyes squint ever so slightly.
That knowing look.
That look of amusement.
That look of recognition of what is yet to come.
Your lip twitches as if preparing to ask me something.
Maybe ask why it has been so long since you have felt the joy sweep over you.
When your shoulders relax.
When the corners of your mouth turn upwards.
When you make real eye contact.
When you look at me.
When you look into me.
Your lips begin to part and you take a slight breath.
Not a full breath, just enough to fuel your response. 
You enjoy this.
Me watching you.
I smile because of that moment before you smile.

* * * * *

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of 22 years and two crazy kids. She is a Writer, a Professional Organizer and owns two companies. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you). Check out Kelli J Gavin on Facebook and on Twitter and Instagram: @KelliJGavin and her blog:

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

"What was better: bombs or developers?" from today's story: "Elegy for a Planet" by J.A. Pak. With today's story, Writing In A Woman's Voice will be on break until May 23, 2018. Happy days to all. 

Elegy for a Planet

by J.A. Pak

The planet was thick with ice. Milky white. Like the fairy tales she’d once loved, ice queens ruling over white sugar kingdoms—her kingdom was below.

She’d been watching the small planet rotate for days, her yacht its only moon. Why did she fight so hard to reclaim it? She had no idea. Ten years of maneuvering through petty government bureaucracy for the deeds to a solid snow globe. It wasn’t the principle—that was the story her press agent had sold to rally public support. Not that there wasn’t injustice. There was a human-shitload of injustice. And it was galling how the government still (after over two hundred years) refused to admit it had stolen the planet right from under her family.

Her family begins with matriarch Karali Bai. That is, the myth of her family begins with Karali Bai. Obsessive, single-minded Karali Bai. Karali Bai who needed a crazy dream to make her life feel real. Perhaps that wasn’t fair, she thought. Who knew why she needed a crazy dream. The crazy dream that was now a funny little nursery rhyme, although, these days, few knew who Karali Bai was or what the rhyme was all about.

Karali Bai’s dream had been to recreate the Origin Planet. As exactly as was humanly possible. (Well, that was the original madness. How do you recreate a planet that’s now myth’s exhalation?) Karali Bai’s first step was to find the right-sized planet. Which she finally did, hidden inside a neglected part of the galaxy. The planet was poor in resources, the atmosphere so thin, it was mostly passing whim. Karali Bai registered her claim, named the planet and spent the rest of her life terraforming it.

Her daughter continued the work. While the planet churned and percolated, she traveled the galaxy, combing every DNA museum and research center for authentic flora and fauna. She’d have to choose wisely. The only instructions her mother had left was “no Homo sapiens.”  Homo sapiens had been the Origin Planet’s plague. Even the family was forbidden, living on a space station far above, affectionately nicknamed the Ark.

She wondered: was the planet Karali Bai’s offering? Atonement? And why would Karali Bai think she was the Homo sapiens to make such an astonishing gesture? Narcissist? What was it that she was really making an atonement for?

It took three more generations to turn the resource-poor planet into a beautiful swirl of blue and white. Nature was taking root and the planet was happy.

A beautiful scientifically-engineered gem always attracts attention. Karali Bai’s planet was declared the most stunning planet ever terraformed. Every travel site listed it as the destination of the century (the fairytale rain forests, pristine oceans untouched by man, savannahs on which mythical creatures roam, a once-in-a lifetime experience not to be missed). Cruise ships clogged the orbit, their passengers livid because they were refused entry. Developers demanded rights. Her family refused again and again, and this led to the inevitable: eminent domain. ‘Each and every successfully terraformed planet is precious and necessary for the well-being of the human species.’

Resource-poor planet. It was greedy the way we categorize planets, she thought. Greedy the way we see each other. How we plunder another human being’s dream for something as superficial as a two-day vacation. Was she down there? Karali Bai? Was she haunting the planet? Was her soul the lingering milk of ice? Did the Karali Bais lure her here, thinking she would understand? Was there something expected of her?

Each successor of the planet took the name Karali Bai. Re-dedication. Re-birth. The last Karali Bai planted three bombs and destroyed the planet. Herself too, the Ark diving into the boiling blaze. The many-generations of research and technology exploded all over the atmosphere. It must have been a spectacular funeral pyre, she thought.

The last Karali Bai was convicted of ecological murder. Tried in absentia because of the collective, hypocritical outrage. There were many instances of women living in extreme conditions, whether social or environmental or economic, who killed themselves and their children to escape suffering. After all, why would a mother want to abandon her children? The defense pleaded insanity. Legal discourse was no place to understand re-birth. And a show trial needed easy lessons, easy condemnation. Show trials were release valves, she thought, a way to place collective guilt onto one poor defenseless woman. The prosecution even resurrected the original Karali Bai as witness against her. Shameless.

Was it so strange, she wondered, what Karali Bai had done? Did it matter whether a planet died in a couple of days or a couple of millennia? What was better: bombs or developers? The quick death or the agonizingly slow? Wasn’t love a better reason for death than corporate profit? And if Karali Bai had been insane, surely she was driven to it by the thought of the never-ending invasion of silly tourists and their insatiable need for souvenirs. The planet would have been picked dry in less than a decade. Homo sapiens were scavengers by nature. Shortsighted, efficient scavengers.

She sighed, the sigh booming through the yacht and alarming the staff. If the Karali Bais thought she would be their successor, they would soon be bitterly disappointed. She’d been a Mistport Minnie her entire life, her singular talent buying and promoting retail fantasies. Terraforming planets was beyond her meager talents. And her ambition. The best she could do, realistically, was establish a small estate on the ice surface—the luxury-end bio domes were amazing these days. But that would eat into her entire fortune (bio domes were notorious money pits). Her younger self would not have hesitated. But now: she would turn ninety this year, entering the first stage of middle age; it’s in middle age that the future becomes concrete, burdensome, constricting, shaming.

Unless you were Karali Bai.

What would she find if she were to thaw the planet? What was hidden in those milky layers? In her? How could you be so fearless, Karali Bai?

For now she would remain inside her yacht, the orbit home, for home was something she’d lost long ago and this was as close to a homecoming as she would ever find—

And then she laughed. 

Karali Bai, Karali Bai,
What planets do you grow?
Karali Bai, Karali Bai,
What madness do you sow?
Take a planet and make it glow,
Light some bombs and make it blow.
Karali Bai, Karali Bai,
What madness do you grow?

* * * * *

"Elegy For A Planet" was first published in The Fem Lit.

A recipient of a Glass Woman Prize, J.A. Pak’s writing has been published in a variety of publications, including 7x7, Unbroken Journal, Joyland, Queen Mob’s Tearoom, Luna Luna, etc.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

dog tags

by Eileen Murphy

there was the grave
my sis and i had to dig in the yard
& then i had to find music
that didn’t make me cry
so hard i caused an accident on my drive to work

the sharp June sunlight sniggered
as dog tags jingled
my curly hair turned straight
in-between hair fell out

with a pure sleep
& courteous waves
a hundred comrade dogs paddled my dog
to the mother-ship–
the water
the warmth
the left/right, left/right of it all

* * * * *

A former Chicagolander, Eileen Murphy now lives 30 miles from Tampa. She received her Masters degree from Columbia College, Chicago. She teaches literature and English at Polk State College in Lakeland and has recently published poetry in Thirteen Myna Birds, Tinderbox (nominated for Pushcart Prize), Yes Poetry, The American Journal of PoetryRogue AgentDeaf Poets Society, and other journals. Her website is

Monday, 14 May 2018

she came in through the bathroom window (remix)

by Eileen Murphy

slip-sliding over the sill
like a seal

wearing her lime & lemon

my grandma waddles up to me
as i’m drinking day-old coffee
working on the computer

leaving a wet glistening trail
behind her
on the hardwood floor

she clasps me close

damp & smelling
like the sea
till I relax & hold her
round the waist

till I know I’m hugging
the same old woman
i loved who died

now she’s in the kitchen
fixing salads for our supper

though she never eats
a single bite

* * * * *

A former Chicagolander, Eileen Murphy now lives 30 miles from Tampa. She received her Masters degree from Columbia College, Chicago. She teaches literature and English at Polk State College in Lakeland and has recently published poetry in Thirteen Myna Birds, Tinderbox (nominated for Pushcart Prize), Yes Poetry, The American Journal of PoetryRogue AgentDeaf Poets Society, and other journals. Her website is

Sunday, 13 May 2018


by Isabel del Rio

new Moon,
comes too soon

waxing crescent,
not truly present

first quarter,
bricks and mortar

waxing gibbous,
one more quiver

full Moon,
a bright lagoon

waning gibbous,
of this rid us

last quarter,
getting shorter

waning crescent,

* * * * *

"duets" is from Isabel del Rio's poetry collection The Moon at the End of my Street (published by Friends of Alice Publishing, 2016)

Isabel del Rio is a bilingual poet and writer living in London.  She has published fiction and poetry in both English and Spanish, and has worked extensively as a linguist and journalist.  Her writing has also appeared in anthologies and online magazines.  Her most recent published work of fiction is Zero Negative, a collection of short stories on the subject of bloodshed, and her latest poetry book is The moon at the end of my street.  Her forthcoming works are two collections of short stories and a novel.  She regularly takes part in readings and performance poetry events. Website: