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Breath & Shadow

Summer 2020 - Vol. 17, Issue 2

"A Guiding Light"

Written By

T. Jeremy Smith

I reach up to feel blood seeping into my mustache. I can smell the scent of iron on my fingers.

“Jesus Christ. I’m lost.”

No one was alarmed when I left the house. No sirens or flashing lights kicked on, warnings of pending danger. It’s something I did every time I visited, weather permitting. No one was going to come looking for me, at least not before sunset. I rarely knew myself how drastically things had changed from one month, one year to the next.

"Beneath the Green Sun"

Written By

Elyssa D. Perkins

The elderly woman looks down at her unshackled feet and her unburdened wrists. Fingers, toes, arms, and legs are bonier than she remembers; the ripped and filthy prison shift cannot hide her emaciation. She walks with a back the shape of the cane she should have, hands in front for balance, feet dragging against cliff rocks that bite. Her knees ache. Darkness falls. Rain follows. Bitter ocean wind sears and soaks her, smelling of salt, which reminds her of sweat and tears and broken promises.

"Brass Rings, Bologna, and Other Gamblers’ Delights, Delusions, and Legacies"

Written By

Madeleine Parish

The summer before my father died, I traveled Upstate to visit him. After lunch in our town’s arts district, we drove to Lake Ontario to watch the waves roll in. It was warm and pleasant, so out the pier we walked, Dad chatting on about all the fun we used to have,

barbequing and playing badminton there. I couldn’t remember those happy outings. But, hey, Dad grinned and spoke with such conviction, his recollections must have been true. Right?

"Crip Camp: Igniting A Fire"

Written By

Chris Kuell

Question: If the Grateful Dead, the Obamas, and a busload of disabled teenagers were lines—where would they intersect?

Answer – Crip Camp

On the recommendation of several friends, my wife and I watched ‘Crip Camp’, a Netflix documentary about a camp for disabled teenagers in upstate, New York, focusing on footage from the summer of 1971. Camp Janed, established in the 1950s as a summer camp for disabled teenagers, hired a new director for the summer of 1971. He, in turn, hired a bunch of hippies (and I use the term descriptively, not derogatorily) to act as camp counselors, regardless of the fact that they had zero experience working with people with disabilities. A bus from NYC arrives, the hippies get to work unloading teenagers without the slightest idea of how to do it, and what ensues is a summer of chaos and beauty and joy and understanding.


Written By

Virginia Betts

If you watch carefully, you will notice something about this child. Blink, and you’ll miss it. Only the very observant among you will see it. All right, are you ready? See that little girl there, the one in the long blue party dress? Yes, that one with the big trusting eyes and the short dark hair, made curly and ribbony for the occasion. Look at her dad- (Beatle haircut, Lord, he’s so young!)- he’s offering her a sausage roll. The large eyes widen further; they look dismayed by this sausage roll. She doesn’t eat it; she pushes it away. He hops her off the high bar stool and leads her by the hand to the big room, where the other children are watching Punch and Judy. Now this is the bit where you need to watch closely. Her mouth is fixed and smiling, but the eyes are not smiling. The eyes are full of fear. It’s fleeting to the casual observer; hidden in plain sight from most people. Inside, she’s becoming very distressed and she doesn’t know why

"How to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Only 10+ Years"

Written By

Cher Finver

If God was going to give me multiple sclerosis, I was going to take advantage of perks like pre-boarding. I boarded with the other disabled passengers, took my seat up front, and quickly pulled out my headphones. Getting only four hours of sleep the night prior and with it now being 5:30 AM, I was in no mood for small talk. Luckily, people don’t usually start a conversation with someone wearing headphones. It was my little secret that they were not turned on for the first hour of my flight.

"I Believe"

Written By

Dawn Vogel

There's a monster under my bed. Her name is Hermana. She's black and gray striped like a tiger, but she looks more like a teddy bear with fangs and claws.

She doesn't like her name. I told her she could use mine, but she doesn't think Chloe suits her, and it's hard to pronounce with her fangs.

"It’s Raining, It’s Pouring"

Written By

Lynn Guttmann

light is falling

     on my gingko's saffron fans

     and gently layered Japanese maples

     the sun’s alchemy


     jade and purple lace

     into wisps of fire


Written By

Megan D. Henson

Her name is Opal—a paradoxical name for a young woman who cannot keep the shadows from leaving their bruises beneath her eyes, which are all dusk and dead of winter. Watch the way she tilts her head and sighs as she shelves the colorful, grimy romance paperbacks at the used bookstore. The look on her face says she can’t find meaning in her work; she can’t find meaning in anything.

"Sometimes In The Evening"

Written By

Marilyn McVicker

Sometimes, in the evening, I get the urge

     to go to a poetry slam, share a bucket

     of popcorn at the latest movie,

     go to the Orange Peel and dance all night.

     Sometimes, on a summer evening

     I get the urge to put my hair up, go out

     for a root beer float, go down to the harbor,

     sip frozen daiquiris, strut my stuff...

"Striding" and "Freedom"

Written By

Gerri Leen

The child watches, midway through the

Labyrinth, as her older—

But not her stronger—self

Strides purposefully

Muttering at the futility

Of the enterprise…

"The First Ride of The Skeleton Queen"

Written By

T.B. Jeremiah

Happiness is the summer air sticky on your skin and pricking at your scabby knees. It is your sister--she is still here with you, at least for now--rocking the floor lamp back and forth with one foot.

It is also the flicker of relief you feel when you switch on your bedroom light and find that there is not a skeleton in your bed. And the next flicker of relief that comes when you close the closet door, trapping the marionettes made of human skin inside.

"Under the Southern Cross"

Written By

Daniel C. Smith

Los Cruz illuminates the sins of el touristo even on this, the darkest Lima’s lonely streets, where travelers can pretend to be lost seeking a sanctuary of indifference to exorcise their contradictory indiscretions.

"Working At Life"

Written By

Joanne Alfano

Denial, overeating, and poor sleep

helped me tolerate the craziness.

I survived; the craziness thrived.

I work with a gunslinger’s stride

meet meaningless milestones

and bury all logic to the contrary...

New on The Bookshelf

Written By

Breath and Shadow

Click here to catch up on four recent releases by B and S authors. Additionally, we have some recommendations to help people understand and participate in changing attitudes and systems that diminish groups on the margins in America, and the world.

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