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Breath & Shadow

Spring 2016 - Vol. 13, Issue 2

"Expanding and Contracting Worlds: A Review"

Written By

Chris Kuell

I’m always looking for book suggestions, so when my friend told me that her book group loved the novel, ‘Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, I made a mental note to check it out. When she told me it was sorta-kinda a love story between a man in a wheelchair and his care-giver, I started to have second thoughts. I am definitely not a fan of contrived, heart-wrenching love stories (think anything by Nicholas Sparks) or fictional works written about characters who are disabled by authors who aren’t. Now—before I’m engulfed in hate mail, I fully understand that many fictional characters are conceived and even written quite well by authors who have never been a pedophile (Lolita) or cast a spell (Harry Potter) or cloned a dinosaur (Jurassic Park). However, I have read works where authors have ‘imagined’ what it must be like to be disabled (think pathetic and/or inspirational, because despite their blindness, they can tie their own shoes!! ) which made me cringe and choke back vomit.

"Will I Remember"

Written By

Emily Hart

I set the alarm for sunrise minus ten

dress quickly in the clothes I laid out

on the chair the night before,

go down the stairs,

counting off the two flights,

knees stiff, reluctant

but obedient.


Written By

Joanne Rixon

There's a gun. She likes its crisp, clear edges, the solid weight in her hand when she sits cross-legged on the bed in her dingy apartment. The room is dim at mid-day, because she's closed all the blinds to shut out the sky.


The bare lightbulb flickers. The other is burned out and she can't be bothered to fix it. The metal is warm on her palm as she dismembers the pistol, and it's still warm as she puts it back together.


Written By

Ada Hoffmann

He thought himself blinded, at first,

until the grave-clothes tore away and his eyes

blinked cold and gritty in the noon light.

He could make out faces, which meant nothing

at first, not with the wailings of unpardoned souls

so fresh in his ears. He mumbled a greeting,

tried to understand why his sisters wept for joy

when he was dead, when all men were clay.

What was joy? His flesh, perhaps, looked whole,

but it seethed underneath,

waiting to rot from the bones and return

to its sleep. He shambled

forward, tried to speak, and only moaned...

"Cisalpine Gaul"

Written By

Mark Cornell

The morning sky is silver. A smoking white sun threatens to break through the clouds. Fog snakes around the top of the nearby giant mountains. Pine forests stretch down to the lake. A beam of sunlight trickles down a light blue patch of sky to thaw my cold hands. The lakes of Lombardy were formed in the Ice Age, carved out by vast glaciers as they flowed down from the Swiss Alps; Alps which tower over half of the sky.

"Many Nights in '76"

Written By

Lee Todd Lacks

Had I been fully aware,

I surely might have crumbled,

but I was seven and resilient.

My frenetic mind deferred

the gravity of the loss,

transforming it

into a temporary fear

of poisoning by osmosis.

"A Memory of Flowers"

Written By

Sandra M. Odell

Benjamin picked at his ragged cuticles.


“Did you ever read that book? That flowers book?”


Ellen found herself playing with her wedding band. She laced her fingers together and set her hands neatly on her lap.


“Flowers for Algernon.”


They sat on a stone bench near the flower beds in the back garden. Stair steps of red and purple tulips caught sunlight in their petal cups. From somewhere near-by came the putter of a lawnmower, the laughter of children.


“Yeah. I’m that Algernon guy.”

"Neurodivergency" and "Mastectomy"

Written By

Jessica Goody

I survived the Holocaust of birth,

the poison palace of the womb.

One quadrant of my brain is blank,

oxygen lost like air from a broken balloon.

In my mind’s eye, that hollow is dark,

a clotted cave of scar tissue. Elsewhere,

brain pathways are lit like switchboards,

thoughts blinking like turn signals.

You can see the nerve-socket glow,

trace its trail from synapse to cell...

"Mental Illness and the Positives of Labeling"

Written By

Denise Noe

When discussing my condition with mental health professionals, I often found myself frustrated and stymied.

“What is wrong with me?” I would ask.

Very often, the answer was, “I don’t like to get into labeling.”

Repeatedly, I found people would say things like, “I don’t think labels mean much.”

Some people believed labels, at least as applied to mental disorders, were “unnecessarily confining.”


Written By

Douglas Kolacki

Is it a sin to love a person who doesn't return it?


It all depends on whether the poor wretch asked for it. That is, dreaming once too often

of his beloved, calling her to mind again and again until she’s stuck there, igniting a fury

of emotions and now what's he to do about it?


Forget the obvious answer, for she's already taken. Or, if she's noticed him, sees not a

Prince Charming but a Norman Bates. This is the age of crazies and stalkers.

"Mutability" and "New Mexico"

Written By

Mark A. Murphy

What is she doing out here in the suburbs, so far

from her woodland home, surveying the yard next door?

Perhaps she hungers for worldly things,

human yards paved with gold?


Written By

Linda A. Cronin

Three times a week, I come to the pool

at Children’s Specialized Hospital to exercise.

Even in the middle of winter, the warm, moist air

reminds me of the humid days of summer.

Since I’m unable to descend the ladder or to walk on land,

when I am ready Pam transfers me to a stretcher

which is lifted out over the pool then lowered gently

into the water where Sue stands ready to release me...

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