Animals were not allowed in the Green Zone. What was this cat doing here?

THE LAST ECHO BY MARK ZIPOLI 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 64

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Animals were not allowed in the Green Zone. What was this cat doing here? Animals in the closed-in-island-that-is-not-an-island of Baghdad were rounded up and disposed of, as per orders of the war contractor. The contractor said nothing about the burning embers of a Dell computer outside a bookstore or the irascible conscience of a junked Mercedes Benz—the ground beneath the car ringed by spreads of bullet casings. The smell of cordite, although thin, was ever present and unmistakable. Please don’t let that cat lead to bad luck, he thought.

They never talk about it again.

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SMALL WONDERS BY DAVID P LANGLINAIS34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 64

They’re both standing in the parking garage crying. He lets go of his suitcase and puts his arms around Cathy. She hugs him back. Her arms are around him as tightly as his arms are around her and she can feel her tears soaking the front of his shirt. Then he’s kissing her and she’s kissing him back as if nothing could be more natural and she can’t believe it’s happening.

The Little Girl came to us by way of slow and then sudden catastrophes.

THE LITTLE GIRL BY RANDY OSBORNE 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 64

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The Little Girl came to us by way of slow and then sudden catastrophes. Birth parents with drug problems, therefore jail problems. Lest foster care seize her, the grandfolks took charge. They listed us as official backups, the next-in-line custodians. And then our turn arrived. Early in our relationship we decided against children. I’m already dad to three, grown. Joyce, 20 years younger and technically within range, said the responsibility would tie us down. We couldn’t have planned on The Little Girl.

Get the mag.

34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 64

THE LAST ECHO BY MARK ZIPOLI, YOU CAN’T AVOID IT FOREVER BY MEGAN VASQUEZ, THE LITTLE GIRL BY RANDY OSBORNE, FLICKER BY SALLY K LEHMAN, SMALL WONDERS BY DAVID P LANGLINAIS, PIECES OF A DROPPED GLASS BY JASON HINCHCLIFFE, BLEMISHES BY JOHN SIERACKI.

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MEGAN VASQUEZ 

Here I am, a 24-year-old woman who is just trying to live healthier. This poem is a reflection of what I was feeling at the time that I wrote it: I was impatient, anxious, and afraid. It was my last semester at California State University, Long Beach, and my future was right up in front of me, pressing its nose against mine. It was telling me to get it together. I’ve always put things off for another hour, day, or week, and it’s always made me feel like I’m wasting time. Over these past couple of months since graduating, I’ve tried so hard to do things right away. I’ve also gotten so comfortable with my decision-making habits that when the time comes for trying something new, I freeze up. One of the main things I’ve realized lately is that yes, I may still be young, but I will never be younger again. Body image—and its countless demons—is another topic I write about a lot. It has taken me a while to fully accept this, but there’s no point in dwelling on how I used to look—I’ll never have that again, and that’s okay. 

My poetry tends to be about what is currently on my mind or what I’ve been wanting to say. My short stories incorporate things that I do or say and observations I’ve made of other people. That is what I do a lot—observe and read others. I like to weave in our current reality with fiction because it helps me learn a lot about myself and other people. I want to be able to tell real stories, but to also make readers feel like they are taking a break from the world, even if only for a moment.

But there’s a small piece of me that is guilty for not being out in the real world. And although the real world isn’t in the best state right now, it’s here, and I’m living in it. Instead of urging readers to live life to the fullest, this poem reflects how I feel about time and its transience. It’s a way for me to take a step back and look at all the tools I have around me. They’re all right here. I just have to use them.

I just graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in English: Creative Writing from California State University, Long Beach, and I’m currently working part-time in retail. I’ve applied to a couple of MFA programs, so that is my next step. 

Image by Jessica Mae Lauer.

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DAVID P LANGLINAIS

I like writing in the morning, the earlier the better, when my mind is fresh. At the end of the day I’m spent, and would rather read.

The best writing advice I can give is to write every day. I know it’s cliché, we’ve all heard it before, but it’s the truest advice for writers at any level. Find the time, even if for only an hour. Even if what you write is crap and you can’t use it. The important thing is to sit down and put words on the page. Because if you’re not writing, you’re not a writer (something I tell myself all the time).

My work has been published in South Dakota Review, Saint Ann’s Review, Los Angeles Review, Concho River Review, Dos Passos Review, Big Muddy, The MacGuffin, Raleigh Review, and more than 20 other magazines. My short stories What Happened to All the Dogs? was published last October.

langlinaisdavid@gmail.com

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MARK ZIPOLI

I was born and raised in Connecticut, got my BA in English from Queens College/City University of New York, and I’ve lived in Santa Monica, California, for the past 28 years. I published a novel, The Long Habit of Living, with Createspace.com in 2010. My short stories have been published in Uncharted Frontier, Hirschworth, Writing Tomorrow, Blue Monday Review, The Blotter, Catamaran Literary Reader, The Wagon Magazine (Chennai, India), and the 34thParallel Magazine. I am trying to save the world as the Operations Manager at Extraordinary Families, a nonprofit, foster family/adoption agency in Los Angeles.  

markzipoli.blogspot.com

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RANDY OSBORNE 

Twice married and father of three, I have paid the bills for almost all of my life as a wage scraper via journalism, most recently in Atlanta covering medical biotechnology. The field might be described as “using live organisms for the benefit and healing of live organisms”. At night and on weekends I write other things; maybe they heal or benefit in different ways. A book of them has accumulated.

My writing is listed in the Notables section of Best American Essays for 2015, 2016, and 2018. My work has been published in four print anthologies, Salon, The Rumpus, Full Grown People, The Lascaux Review, Flyleaf Journal, 3:AM Magazine, Empty Mirror, Fiction Attic, Identity Theory, 3Elements Review, Bodega, SLAB, Lumina Journal, Loose Change, SunStruck, Green Mountains Review, Spry Literary Journal, Scene Missing, Thread, and other small magazines, as well as the Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal Constitution, San Francisco Bay Guardian, and St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

randyosborne@gmail.com

BLEMISHES BY JOHN SIERACKI 34THPARALLEL MAGAZINE ISSUE 64

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JOHN SIERACKI

This is the  nest in Scene 2 of Blemishes, three baby birds waiting for their mother to feed them. That’s John Sieracki on the left, with Wilson Yerxa (who played Cat) and Andy McAlpine (Weepy). The nest was constructed out of refuse with love by the poet Delia Pless. The photo was taken outside the Northampton Center for the Arts.

Blemishes began as an exploration of identity, characters made from video gamer names; made from masks, essentially. Identities formed by accretion, the addition of imperfections, blemishes. There is a way of thinking of identity as a combination of what we say we are, and what others say we are. Add to that mix the element of chance: the things happening that are beyond our control, like characteristics and circumstances we are born into, and whomever we happen upon as we journey through life – that is, the people who somewhat randomly get added to that group of “others” who partly determine our identity. Other ingredients in this recipe for identity that I like to add are irrationality/illogicality, and our inability to fully connect with each other. This points to the overall inadequacy of language, and of relationships in general. 

I am a graduate of the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The image is of the nest in Scene 2 of Blemishes, containing three baby birds waiting for their mother to feed them. That’s me on the left, with Wilson Yerxa (who played Cat) and Andy McAlpine (Weepy). The nest was constructed out of refuse with love by the poet Delia Pless. Connecticut River Valley Poets Theater (CRVPT, pronounced “crypt”) produced an earlier version of Blemishes in May 2018, at the Northampton Center for the Arts, Northampton, MA, for an audience of about 20. This version of Blemishes has never been performed.

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SALLY K LEHMAN

The key to story writing is to believe in your voice. This story is about being different, being imperfect, being myself. I’ve learned through writing to speak in a manner that best suits me. To be as much myself as possible. 

As a writer, I’ve studied with a slew of wonderful teachers/writers/mentors including Lidia Yuknavitch, Tom Spanbauer, and Robert Mooney. And now I’m in the last bits of my MFA at Wilkes University. Wilkes is pretty nifty because an MFA student can choose either teaching or publishing as their area of focus—I chose publishing. Wilkes has also given me the opportunity to word as the CNF Editor and Managing Editor of the program’s literary magazine River & South Review.

I have written six novels. The first will probably never make it to publishing; the next two were self-published (The Unit—Room 154 and Living in the Second Tense); a small press called Black Bomb Books published the fifth titled In The Fat. Novel four is out with people. Novel six needs work.

My poetry has been published in more than a dozen literary magazines, and my short stories in nearly as many.

SallyKLehman.com

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JASON HINCHCLIFFE 

I like telling stories with my poems. For the most part, the stories are my own, but some are borrowed from the people whose lives have been interwoven with mine, things I’ve heard or seen, glimpses of people’s lives and personalities, or a memory that stuck with me through the years until it found its way onto the page. Work of mine has been published in the Nashwaak Review, 94 Creations, the Wayfarer, and the River Poets Journal.

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