Issue 86: Tom McCauley


About Tom McCauley

Tom McCauley is a writer, comedian and musician whose work has appeared in Superstition ReviewLeveler and What Rough Beast. His poem “People Are Not Lights” won the 2018 Joseph Langland Prize from the Academy of American Poets. In 2012 he scored Constance Congdon’s play “Tales of the Lost Formicans” for the Great Plains Theatre Conference, and in 2018, he was a writer-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center of Nebraska City. Currently, he works for the nonprofit AIM Institute and teaches contemporary literature at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

In his spare time, he publishes These H1N1 Times, writes and records music in his basement, edits videos out of Cold War-era documentaries on farming and milk production, and thinks fondly of many people, especially his friends and bandmates from erstwhile post-rock outfit The Answer Team, which has a surprisingly large following in Brazil. Somebody look into that please.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on “Introductory Element Comma Independent Clause: A Study of the Moon and Bees”

This essay came out of an assignment from a creative nonfiction class I took a couple years ago with novelist Edie Meidav at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

At the end of the semester, Edie had us draw the name of a fellow student from a hat. We then had to imitate that person’s style. Fortunately for me, I was assigned a brilliant colleague, Elle Davis, who couldn’t have been further from me stylistically.

Normally, my stuff is driven by the voice of someone who tends to wander around loudly. Someone who tries to neaten up the chaos of experience into a conventionally coherent, quasi-Aristotelian narrative while being chatty, allusive, and compulsively humorous at the sad parts. You know, like a jerk.

But Elle (pronounced “L”) could let in the raw-nerved, unfiltered sense-phenomena of the world with a kind of bright quietude. All-patient and all-noticing, unlike me, she didn’t need to complete every sentence. She could just collect lovely artifacts, stake them on the page, and make you feel like one whole person standing in a field, diminishing an apple.

Trying to write like her was an all-night freedom. I typed until dawn, puzzling together fragments that ultimately didn’t sound like her, but rather a different version of myself. I wasn’t hurrying toward punchlines, just patiently digging up various ideas, images, and semester-long inside-jokes about Roland Barthes, then clapping them together for the echo.

When the semester ended, I sold all my stuff and came home. I put the piece away and forgot about it. For no good reason this past January I unearthed the draft, felt the voltage-gated ion channels open up, and started revising it a hundred times until it buzzed, then let it go.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I’ve been listening to Japanese indie punk band Eastern Youth a lot lately, especially their 2007 album 地球の裏から風が吹 (Blowing from the Other Side of Earth). The song “沸点36℃” ( “Boiling Point 36 Degrees Celsius”) just devastates me. It’s everything I could want from music, a beautiful, off-the-high-speed-rails freak out of fuzz guitar and off-kilter drums. The song utterly proves the universality of music. I can’t speak a lick of Japanese, but I know in my bones what Hisashi Yoshino is screaming about. The live version also has me in tears.

I listen to a lot of lo-fi hip-hop / beats to study to and other chill-out music like Nujabes and Driver. It helps for writing, making out, and not falling off the face of the world.

Simpsonswave still impresses me because I’m an idiot.

I’m never not listening to Sleep’s Dopesmoker. It took me six months to get into, but now that I’m into it, I’ll never leave. It’s a 63-minute long song everyone thinks is about smoking weed, and yes, that is what it’s about. But so much more, too. It’s the heaviest thing imaginable. Not heavy as in aggressive, but heavy like a big, warm, mountain mother reaffirming dry land for us, her sublime children of the sea. (For a better exegesis, read this letter from the Times.)

Finally, I’ve been listening to semiweekly dharma talks by this Zen monk from Michigan, Sokuzan Bob Brown. Every Wednesday and Sunday he gives these insightful, deadpan discourses about observing whatever arises in one’s mind without attaching to or judging it. He and the greater Zen tradition are a good antidote to COVID-19 anxiety, which reminds me: I’m also always listening to the audiobook of Shunryu Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, lovingly read by ex-Sixties radical turned Ken Burns narrator Peter Coyote.

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Issue 86: Kathryn Smith


About Kathryn Smith

Kathryn Smith won the Jake Adam York Prize for her poetry collection Self-Portrait with Cephalopod, which will be published in February 2021 by Milkweed Editions. She is also the author of the chapbook Chosen Companions of the Goblin (Open Country Press, 2019), and the full-length collection Book of Exodus (Scablands Books, 2017). She’s on the world wide web at, and on Instagram as @paperhermitage, where she posts about poetry, collage, mixed media art, ink-making, gardening, and other stuff. She lives in Spokane, WA.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on “Ode to Super Friends and Nature Television”

I try to live conscientiously, especially where the environment is concerned, but some days it feels utterly futile. Like, do I seriously think I can forestall the planet’s collapse by line-drying my laundry? “Ode to Super Friends and Nature Television” is a litany of these frustrations, merged with images inspired by the BBC documentary series Planet Earth. So why do I call it an ode? I guess it’s part sarcasm, part Hail Mary to the fictions we tell ourselves with our small gestures, the hope that they might, after all, add up to something. And I do love those nature shows.

This poem started out as several different poems. I wanted to write about how climate change is messing with birds’ migration patterns. I wanted to write about the animals I inadvertently displaced by sending an arborist into my ancient urban maple tree to prune it. I wanted to write a list poem of things over which I have no control. And the ants. Oh, how I wanted to write about zombie ants! But individually, the poems lacked the urgency I was after. So, I took the best and most frantic lines from each and built this Frankenstein’s monster of a poem. And to my surprise, it came to life.

“Ode to Super Friends” opens my new book, Self-Portrait with Cephalopod, which comes out in February from Milkweed Editions. When I wrote the poem, I didn’t know I would use it to set up an entire collection, but it works because it grasps at so many of my obsessions, it’s full of dread, yet somehow, it maintains its awe and love for this doomed world.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I just ate a cupcake. I don’t like cake, but I’ll eat a cupcake if someone brings it to my door, which is what happened. This particular cupcake was left over from a memorial service for two chickens. The chickens spent the first eight weeks of their brief but idyllic life in the attentive care of two children (not mine) desperately in need of a pandemic project. When the birds had outgrown their cardboard brooder box (not to mention the patience of the parent whose living room the fast-growing cluckers had taken over), they came to live among my established backyard flock, where they spent the next four weeks mingling with the big hens, sorting out their pecking order (it’s a real thing, if you’ve ever wondered), and plotting their escape before some asshole neighborhood cat broke into their coop in the middle of the night and snapped their necks. The funeral was the children’s idea, or maybe their parents’, but not mine. The cupcake was lemon flavored and decorated with that weird, translucent gel icing that stains your teeth, which had been used to draw the outline of a baby chick. It tasted just how a funeral cupcake should taste–a little bit tart, distinctly chemical in a boxed-cake-mix way, and ultimately disappointing.

“Ode to Super Friends and Nature Television” By Kathryn Smith

  Days when the planet seems particularly poised for disaster, I wear both my cephalopod T-shirt and my cephalopod ring. Have you heard of a more Anthropocene coping mechanism? I … Read more

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Issue 82: Rob Carney

Rob Carney

About Rob Carney

Rob Carney is originally from Washington state. He is the author of five collections, most recently The Book of Sharks (Black Lawrence Press, 2018) and 88 Maps (Lost Horse Press, 2015), which was named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award. His work has appeared in Cave Wall, Columbia Journal, Sugar House Review, Terrain: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments, and dozens of others, as well as the Norton anthology Flash Fiction Forward (2006). In 2014 he received the Robinson Jeffers/Tor House Foundation Award for Poetry. He is a Professor of English and Literature at Utah Valley University and lives in Salt Lake City.

You can find more of his work online at:

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "When's My Luck Gonna Change"

It’s funny you ask about how this poem arose, developed, etc., and if there were any surprises involved, because I’ve written two essays for Terrain: A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments about just that (well, about other poems that followed the same method I used for “When’s My Luck Gonna Change?”)—

I’d say this is Magnús Siggurðsson’s doing, or else the Icelandic language’s doing, because I found his poems in (also collected in a book called Cold Moons) so damn interesting. I don’t mean the English translations, though those are good too; I mean the originals. Since I don’t speak Icelandic, seeing words on the page like “af myrkri,” and “pví upp,” and “bilaður mótor,” and “blásvörtum” was pretty strange. But also familiar. I mean, they looked a bit like “enough miracles,” and “divvy up,” and “build a motor,” and “stormblast,” so I used those things the way you’d cross a river by stepping from stone to stone, resulting not in a true translation of Siggurðsson’s poem “Blek” (trans.: “Ink”) but in this surprising literary zydeco or gumbo or something.

The key—at least for me—was letting my Guesswork Brain do the steering while telling my Everything Else Brain to just shut up and quit grabbing at the wheel. Who needs to know where they’re headed all the time? Well, most of us, probably, but not poems. They’re luckier than we are.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

Lately I’ve been listening to Camper Van Beethoven’s Key Lime Pie, The La’s: BBC In Session, and of course Tom Waits—especially Rain Dogs and Frank’s Wild Years.

The La’s were this hugely popular live act in the ’80s, but they never had an album because the front man hated every sound engineer and kept replacing who was in the band. Then, when their album finally did come out, he didn’t like it and disowned it immediately. Luckily the BBC recorded four live studio performances over the years, and hearing the different band members and the different approaches to the songs is really cool. This is the band that wrote “There She Goes.” Yes, that song The Boo Radleys covered, the one on the soundtrack to So I Married an Axe Murderer. Guess who’s version is better?

Eating and drinking? Pizza too often and whiskey not enough . . . one in particular: The Green Spot from Midleton Distillery (that’s spelled right; there’s just one “d”). It’s only distributed in a handful of states, and Utah isn’t one of them, so if you want to send me a present, many thank-yous. Of course, you’ll have to disguise it since wine and liquor can’t be mailed here (lunacy!). Rob Carney, 2309 South 800 East, Salt Lake City, UT 84106.

And animals? Still the same bad-ass cat. He’s 16 now, a Maine Coon; his name is Gruden. And also this acrobat squirrel who eats from the bird feeder by hooking a back claw in the tree trunk for balance—one claw for all that gravity-defiance!—while stretching out Superman-style and going face first into the seeds.

Issue 82 Cover shows Chris Bovery print of a bridge in pink and blue with Willow Springs in decorative font.

“When’s My Luck Gonna Change?” by Rob Carney

Found in Willow Springs 82 Back to Author Profile When’s My Luck Gonna Change   There aren’t enough miracles to divvy up.   Sometimes this frustrates the angels.   They’d like … Read more

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Issue 87: Alpay Ulku

alpay ulku

About Alpay Ulku

Alpay’s book of poems is Meteorology (BOA Editions) and the manuscript making the rounds is Mercator.

He was a First and Second Year Poetry Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and has received residencies from the Millay Colony and the Wurlitzer Foundation and grants from the Iowa Arts Council and the Illinois Arts Council. He graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

His work has appeared in journals such as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, and the American Poetry Review. His explication of Yeats’s “The Second Coming” was a Poets’ Pick prose feature on Poetry Daily, and Slate magazine selected one of his poems for their “Best Valentine’s Day Poems” feature.

Alpay splits his time between Chicago, where he works as a Business Analyst and Senior Technical Writer on a project basis for part of the year, and the Turkish resort city of Antalya.

His website is

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Spending the Night at the Blue Mountain Service Plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I Dreamt I Drove into a Tractor Trailer Just Past Mile Marker 202"

When I first wrote this poem it was called “Ghosts” and we had not yet partied like it’s 1999, and I buried it in my ‘duds’ file:

“You’ve been here forever, in the screech and roll of tightening curves, white lights and yellow lights, signs you no longer bother to read. /Some jazz, some classical. A woman calls about her cheatin’ boyfriend. A man thinks the President’s a crook. /Then the silence of deep country night. A small live thing that thinks it’s moving, thinks there are junctures and exits. /A semi turns its headlights off and on. You ease into the slow lane, and there’s the cop, tracking you with laser beans /invisible to the human eye. The ghosts of two deserters from the Civil War veer off the trail and flatten behind a ridge. Forget the job,/the apartment crowded with stuff. When you stop, you’ll be there. All you need is a little faith. But you’ll still be there, won’t you?”

I made the poem worse in the early oughts by changing the name to “Deserters” and adding “Your son, so she says,” instead of the line about the apartment (I don’t have kids). I somehow deleted my ‘duds’ file without noticing, found it a couple of years ago on an old flash drive, and revised the poem in about an hour.

I swerved into the service plaza on an impulse, driving from Provincetown to Pittsburgh, and dreamt I drove into a tractor trailer.

Notes on "Ice Walking, Columbia Ice Field, Jasper National Park, Alberta"

This was called “Blue Ice, Blue Fractals” at first, and I have no idea why. Later I read an article about a couple that went hiking in the above location in the dead of winter, for their wedding anniversary, I think, and it was with great delight that I read the account to my wife, who is more of a spa-and-bubble bath type.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

We don’t have a “W” in Turkish, so my cat’s name here is Vookie Voo. I’m waiting out COVID in Antalya, where the numbers are not too bad, and even street cats and street dogs have healthcare. It’s true. There are municipal vets to catch-neuter/splay-and release, but you can bring a sick or wounded animal in and they’ll take care of it. If you can’t bring the animal in yourself, there’s an “ambulance” that will come and get it. The city leaves food for the strays and they have cat houses for the cats, which are these cat jungle gyms enclosed by wire so only cats can get through. Others are allowed into the basements of apartment buildings, and of course people feed them, and it’s a rare shop owner that won’t allow a dog to hang out under the awning or bring out a bowl of water in the summer.

Two Poems by Alpay Ulku

“Spending the Night at the Blue Mountain Service Plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I Dreamt I Drove into a Tractor Trailer Just Past Mile Marker 202”   You’ve been driving … Read more

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Issue 87: J. P. White


About J. P. White

J.P. White has published essays, articles, fiction, reviews, interviews and poetry in over a hundred publications including The Nation, The New Republic, The Gettysburg Review, American Poetry Review, North American Review, The Georgia Review, Southern Review, and Poetry (Chicago). He is the author of five books of poems and a novel, Every Boat Turns South.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Elegy for a Buckeye" and "Seabooted"

I was a night nurse of sorts for both of my parents in their last year.  In those unequipped, nether hours between worlds, I would read to them, read to myself, sleep, and try to dream/imagine their earlier lives. My father was a lifelong sailor and he lived all his life on water or within earshot. On one of those late nights with my father, I traveled back to his childhood home in Sandusky, Ohio lined with buckeye trees.  That night nurse traveling allowed me to enter the space in which both of these poems gather their images.

My hope for “Elegy for a Buckeye” is that the lament for the tree suggests the arc of a man’s life: what he was called to do in the state of Ohio that has been overly fond of elimination and removal.

In “Seabooted,” the overlay of one memory plays tricks with the present or it allows the past to round the corners of the present. By accident, rather than design, I often find myself in the collision of the past and present, how one subverts or informs the other and allows us to stare down our conclusions about what happened and what did not in the brief time we were given.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I live for part of the year in the land of roosters.  They are everywhere making themselves known and heard.  It’s hard not to appreciate their enthusiasm for life and sex, but at 3 a.m. when they begin to crow and pass that crowing up and down the mountain, one’s regard for them changes into something like a survival competition.  If and when the final cloud darkens, the rooster, centipede and mongoose will remain to battle it out for top billing.

“Elegy for a Buckeye” and “Seabooted” by J. P. White

Elegy for a Buckeye   I went all the way back to the beginning looking for a buckeye giant On a quiet street in Ohio but it was gone and … Read more

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Issue 87: Allan Peterson


About Allan Peterson

A visual artist and poet, the most recent of Allan Peterson’s six books is This Luminous, New and Selected Poems, a finalist for the Oregon Book Award.  Some other titles include Precarious, a finalist for the Lascaux Prize; All the Lavish in Common, Juniper Prize; and Fragile Acts, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His third book, As Much As, was published by Salmon Press, Ireland

His work has appeared in magazines such as: Agni, A Public Space, The Nation, The Gettysburg Review, The Paris Review, Blackbird, The Believer, The Rumpus, Zyzzyva, as well as internationally. No social media, but his website is:, stop by. Other links and publications can be found there.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Marksman" and "Anxiety"

A poem is a developing revelation. I do not know where a poem will go, nor do I want to. What would be the fun. This one started with those first few lines imagining a baby me looking up at I know not what. It acquired ideas that came together by reveries w/o attempting to create a narrative. The vision that developed is excited, curious, and optimistic, not unlike my current state, dec-ades later. In imagining inner thoughts and expectations, I could speak both as observer and participant. The accruing connections to the initial ideas were sometimes surprising, but I trust such jumps. The final line, that occurred spontaneously while working on something else a few days later, added a per-fect note of futurity.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

Long a vegetarian, I don’t eat my animal friends, so many of whom I’ve admired over the years. I think I have an especially good reputation among turtles, having saved so many from highway compressions. If the question was “why did the turtle cross the road,” the answer would be: because Allan carried me there.

Beer and desert are fine combinations. Black Boss is a particularly delicious Polish porter. Cheesecake and pecan pie pair well. No music when I’m writing, otherwise Blues and Baroque.

“Marksman” and “Anxiety” by Allan Peterson

“Marksman”   Whoa look at that A sweat bee big as a warbler It could mean that the terror is true after all and it’s all your fault Robert Oppenheimer … Read more

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Issue 87: A. D. Nauman

ad nauman

About A. D. Nauman

A.D. Nauman has published short fiction in TriQuarterlyNecessary Fiction, The Literary Review, Roanoke Review, The Chicago Reader, Other Voices, and many other journals. Her dystopian novel, Scorch, was published in 2001 by Soft Skull/Counterpoint. Nauman is the recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award, and her work has been produced by Stories on Stage, broadcast on NPR, and nominated for a Pushcart prize. She recently finished a novel set in Tidewater, Virginia, during the Civil Rights era (and is seeking an agent). Nauman teaches literacy education courses at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. She lives in a hundred-year-old house with her partner, Dion, and a very pampered tuxedo cat.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Lookers"

In the late 1970s, when I was a kid in Newport News, Virginia, there was indeed an AM radio station that launched a “Good Lookers” campaign. Pretty young women drove up and down the peninsula (so phallic) to give away money. There was, in fact, a DJ like “Big D,” whose persona was based on sexual harassment. The demeaning way he spoke about women on the radio was amusing to other men; women were expected to be “good sports” about it. This memory has stayed with me, the dynamics of it echoing throughout my life.

I thought the late 1970s was an important era to write about now: at that time, the country seemed to be just getting tired of the women’s movement. “Enough, already,” was the attitude. The Reagan era was imminent, bringing with it a backlash against feminism. The word “Femi-Nazi” was coined, and we entered a decades-long period of denial that sexism was still raging in our culture. It took the “Me Too” movement to bring that denialism to an end. That said, new ways to undermine equality for women undoubtedly lie ahead.

One hallmark of sexism is the rejection of a woman’s viewpoint—a refuting of the reality of her experience. In “Lookers,” Jenna’s anger and feelings of mental instability result from long-term sexual abuse, yet it’s easier for others to view her as just “crazy.” Along with sexism, I wanted to explore the intersectionality of gender and class, particularly how male behaviors that threaten low-income women can appear to uplift wealthy women. Affluent Luanne feels herself buffered against a demeaning predator like Big D, carrying a privileged sense of protection unavailable to Jenna. So where there could have been an alliance—a sisterhood—there is distrust and a lack of understanding that keep them divided.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

Food: anything with cheese; booze: a lot; tattoos: none; kittens: my 14-year-old cat, a kitten at heart; music: Hamilton.

Hamilton. Hamilton Hamilton and more Hamilton. Hamilton. Also, Hamilton. I think we should replace the picture of Alexander Hamilton on the ten-dollar bill with Lin-Manuel Miranda. I mean, I truly think this. I’ve never seen the theater production, but when the movie version was released last year, my daughter, who has been singing the entire soundtrack verbatim for the past 5 years, suggested we watch it. I know this sounds corny, but Hamilton has flooded me with a renewed faith in American democracy. Hearing the founding fathers’ words in the voices of people of color was a profound experience. I listened to the soundtrack obsessively every day for weeks after seeing the movie. Then I saw the movie again. To me Hamilton underscores in bold marker the promise of this country: everyone is equaleveryone has a right to dignity and a meaningful life. We are so far from that ideal, but Hamilton provided me with a vivid reminder of this essential aspiration. In a democracy, everyone is worthy—not just white men, not just rich people, not just the well-connected or celebrities or their offspring. People do not have to be arranged into hierarchies. Even though we’re different, with varying talents and abilities, our presence on this earth is of equal value. Hamilton’s popularity has restored my hope that Americans may soon realize this. This is why I love Hamilton.

Also, Thomas Jefferson was hysterical.

“Lookers” by A. D. Nauman

Found in Willow Springs 87 Back to Author Profile JENNA SAT IN THE BACK ROW like she used to in high school and eyeballed her: Luanne, the original WRNL Good Looker, … Read more

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Issue 87: Amber McBride

A photo of Amber McBride

About Amber McBride

Amber McBride is an English professor at the University of Virginia. She received her BA in English from James Madison University in 2010 and acquired her MFA in Poetry from Emerson College in 2012. Amber low-key practices Hoodoo and high key devours books (150 or so a year keep her well fed).

Her poetry has appeared in/forthcoming in various literary magazines including PloughsharesProvincetown ArtsDecomPThe Cincinnati ReviewThe Rumpus and others. Amber also writes Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction and is represented by Rena Rossner at The Deborah Harris Literary Agency. Her novel-in-verse Me (Moth) will be published by Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, in Aug 2021.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Southern Gothic (For the Black Boy)" and "Desecrate"

“Southern Gothic (For the Black Boy)” & “Desecrate” are both from a poetry collection I am working on tentatively called, Thick With Trouble. The collection examines being a minority in The United States and how simply living is an act of protest. The seeds for the poem “Desecrate” were actually planted when I was 13 or 14. My parents took us to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, CA. While walking through the museum I became very upset; I did not understand why so many human bodies were on display and why they were so far away from where they died. Two years ago, I had the same thought at a museum and started drafting this poem on my phone. I wanted to inspect if time had anything to do with the wishes of the deceased and the line between research and ritual. As an adult I was also very aware that the bodies of Pharaohs were on display, but not European kings/ queens. So this poem asked why?

“Southern Gothic (For the Black Boy)” arose from the frustration with the continued abuses/ fears and inaccurate stereotypes about Black men/boys in America. There is a twin poem in my collection that speaks to these same fears thrown at Black women. I also wanted to write a poem using couplets.

At the heart, both of these poems birthed from questioning the disparity between how white bodies are treated compared to the bodies of BIPOC. Inspecting these subtle and sometimes blatant disparities is a central theme in my collection, Thick With Trouble.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I have to listen to music when I write, so I am a huge fan of all genres. If I put my “Liked Spotify Playlist” on shuffle the first five songs I get are: Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday, Black Parade by Beyonce, Dilemme by Lous and The Yakuza, Daechwita by Agust D, and Dinner & Diatribes by Hozier.

Tattoos are essentially accessories you never have to take off—I adore them. I have several (all words and numbers) and I anticipate that as soon as it is safe to travel I will accidently (on purpose), get 15 in one year.

My German Shepherd, Shiloh, is my wolf child and best friend—she also enjoys music and if she did not have so much fur would want a tattoo.

“Southern Gothic (For the Black Boy)” and “Desecrate” by Amber McBride

“Southern Gothic (For the Black Boy)”   Our meal begins at a pine table surrounded by finely dressed haunts. The table wears a black cloth, to hide the blood in … Read more

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Issue 86: Andrew Furman


About Jennifer Christman

Jennifer Christman (she/her) is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Warren Wilson College. Her debut fiction can be found in New Ohio Review 24. She lives in New York City.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on “Dani Bloom”


“Dani Bloom” was inspired by a place in south Florida that has fascinated and haunted
me for the past 20-odd years I’ve lived here. It’s a wild 2000-acre finger of West Indian
hardwoods at the very top of the Keys in North Key Largo. In the 1980s, it was the site of fierce and protracted litigation between developers, who hoped to build a nearly 500-acre faux Mediterranean coastal village of hotels and condominiums smack dab in the middle of the woods, and environmental activists, who opposed the plan given the critical role of the hammock to the ecosystem.

As so many of these stories go in south Florida, the developers eventually won the court
case and even started construction. Yet, thankfully, they went bankrupt and ultimately
abandoned the project before destroying too much of the hammock. Soon after, the state
purchased the land and named it after one of the local environmentalist heroes who fought to preserve it. Now, the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park is home to 84 protected species of plants and animals, including Schaus’ swallowtail butterflies, mahogany mistletoes, wild tamarinds, American crocodiles, mangrove cuckoos, black-whiskered vireos, rare tree snails, and, my personal favorite, the endangered Key Largo woodrats, whose elaborate ground-nests of sticks and twigs enthralled William Bartram when he ventured down to Florida almost 250 years ago.

I travel down the highway with binoculars to visit this site when I can and it never fails to produce some great plant or animal discovery. But there’s also an eerie, Planet of the Apes feel to the place as several remnants of the abandoned development can still be glimpsed through the dense foliage, including a rock wall that snakes its way through the bush. I’ve known for quite a while that I’d eventually write a story set in this place, and then a character finally occurred to me, an adolescent girl, yes, growing up in the immediate aftermath of the failed development, whose mother maybe owned a native plant nursery and fought against it. The girl would be struggling to find her place in the world and the hammock—this magical place in its own right—would somehow play a role in her self-discovery. I’d have to find a way to get her out there. It had taken a while, I knew, to dismantle some of the buildings that the developers had partly constructed. Hmm. I just took it from there and hoped for the best!

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

Don’t even get me started on my border collie mix, a rescue from Hurricane Harvey in
Texas. We named him Storm, of course, and I’ve been pretty much obsessed with him from the start. Thankfully, he’s also obsessed with me and doesn’t like to leave my side. Storm had a rough first year with us. Malnourished as a pup before we adopted him, the bones in his front legs didn’t develop normally. He had difficulty walking and we thought he might need surgery. Thankfully, proper nutrition and lots of TLC—especially from our youngest child, Eva—brought his legs up to speed, finally. We now take Storm to the dog park and beach, and we even drive him from south Florida all the way to Acadia National Park in Maine so he can enjoy the mountain trails and lakes with us. And then there was the time that he noticed a child drowning in the ocean and swam out 500 yards and dragged her back to the safety of the shore by grasping her shoulder strap with his teeth. Okay, that never happened, but if Storm did notice a child drowning, I’m sure he’d save her! Strangers we meet out and about are always impressed by his sweetness, his obedience, and his good looks! Often, people are stunned that he’s not one of those fancy high-cost breeds, but an “All-American Dog,” as we call him, and one of a kind. I tell his many admirers that they should consider getting their own rescue, as there are any number of special dogs out there in need of a loving home.

“Dani Bloom” by Andrew Furman

Found in Willow Springs 86 Back to Author Profile SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENED to Dani Bloom the spring of her sophomore year at Keys High. She became popular. Not popular in the … Read more

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Issue 86: Jennifer Christman


About Jennifer Christman

Jennifer Christman (she/her) is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Warren Wilson College. Her debut fiction can be found in New Ohio Review 24. She lives in New York City.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on "Elodie"

“Elodie” came about as a result of two other stories I wrote. One is about the Roseclaire character (her mother), in which she is living through the drama of her marriage ending and her friends ghosting her in her uptight suburb. That she has a little girl is barely mentioned. The other story is about the Old Lady character (her name is Avis in this story), who is loosely based on a real-life but now deceased grand dame of theater. Old Lady reminisces about her theater days and spends her time talking to Peanut (also inspired by and named for a real living being of a dog). Not long after, I wrote a shortie about a grungy, hovel-loving girl, Elodie, who works as a projectionist, at which point I thought, hmmm, I think she might be the daughter of that Roseclaire person. Then – I swear this is gonna come together – I read a memoir written in present tense and admired the ongoing sense of loss conveyed by the narrator (it’s about the death of her sister), and knew that Elodie would surely have experienced tremendous loss because of her mother’s withdrawal. So, I worked on Elodie as daughter of Roseclaire in the present and it just kind of rolled out. (This rarely happens to me… it’s usually a slog.) Oh, and I knew that Elodie would find her way to Old Lady and Peanut, because I loved them and wanted them in the story.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I love to cook, it’s relaxing, and Tracy Chapman has been my go-to for kitchen listening for the past year or so. Maybe the era we are in? Her soulfulness, her activism. 1970’s folk and classic rock are my defaults, though. I also love ska and reggae. Since a tune or tone often helps me conjure characters, I create playlists for them. Right now, a character I’m working on plays banjo, and his daughter, long after he passes, listens to it, too, to feel close to him. So, I’ve had a lot of Old Timey playing to help me feel closer to both of them.

Food and booze. I eat huge quantities of popcorn. When I don’t have popcorn, I eat corn chips. All day. Writer friends introduced me to a craft beer that I’m obsessed with – Lawson’s Sip of Sunshine. The yellow can brightens my day.

I don’t have tattoos. Or kittens. But Teddy, my dog, is my constant companion – as in glued to my side. He’s fluffy, black and white, and mildly arthritic at 14, but still pretty spry.

“Elodie” by Jennifer Christman

Found in Willow Springs 86 Back to Author Profile IT’S AROUND THE TIME my mother, formerly Roseclaire, emerges from the lower depths. She’s been living in the basement since I was … Read more

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