La Gallera — by Marie Harris

Friday afternoon in Puntas, a tiny town in the hills above Rincón. Cars are pulled off the twisting road at haphazard angles under falls of purple vines and wild hibiscus. Thin hairless dogs thread through the traffic. As we file into the small stadium, a woman rocks and watches from her pink cement porch next door.

I met Eddie yesterday at the seaside shrine of Saint Carmen, patron saint of fishermen. We got to talking near his small boat pulled up on the beach under rattling palms. I bought a red snapper. Eddie mentioned the cockfights, allowed as how I could see one if I wanted. Now, in this small cement block building with its blue-and-white grandstands, its smoky cafeteria, and a bar with bottles arranged beneath a mirror in bargello fashion, it strikes me there’s something familiar here, though I’ve never sat on peeling bleachers waiting for a cockfight to begin.

The men arrive carrying their roosters tucked under an arm, close to the chest. The shiny birds seem calm, almost docile. The men draw chips out of a glass jar hoping their birds will fight early while they’re still fresh. The cocks are placed in plastic boxes stacked in rows.

The shallow ring—a pit measuring twenty feet in diameter—is filled with milling spectators waiting for the next match. Some are young men in jeans and fluorescent t-shirts, but most are older, sober in their pressed pants, embroidered cotton shirts and shined shoes. Everyone is talking, moving about, gesturing like brokers on the floor of a tropical stock exchange. Two men in their midst put their birds into two blue cloth bags, which are hung on a scale to demonstrate their equal weight. The crowd moves into the stands. The handlers remain, thrusting the birds at each other, making kissing noises. The roosters brighten, become alert and wary. Around them, the betting proceeds, each man shouting his wager at another until each deal is struck.

One man brings his bird forward, holds it at arm’s length. The official dips a square of cloth in water and rubs it along the bird’s shaved legs, along its wings, around its shoulders, opens the beak and squeezes a few drops down its gullet. The bird drinks to its own health, for if its feathers had been poisoned against its opponent, the bird itself would die. The process is repeated on the second bird. Then a clear cage is lowered from the ceiling, coming to rest on the dusty red rug of the ring. The official blows his whistle into the mike. The cage ascends. There is an instant of quiet before the cocks—one white, one black—fly at each other with beak and spur. Then noise is everywhere. Like heat. Men shouting above the loud, scratchy, amplified voice of the announcer. The two cocks in the middle of the ring circle and jab, neck feathers fanned, blood beginning to stain their heads and shoulders.

I go to buy a piña and look around. There’s an outer ring behind the stands and a room walled off by slats in one section. In it there is a wooden platform like a cobbler’s bench or a stationary seesaw. At one end sits a man with matches in his mouth, surrounded by little pots of glue, thimbles of thin twine, a knife. At the other end an old man turns his rooster on its side and proffers it. Skillfully, the man with the matches puts a spur—a natural one or a metal gaff depending upon the agreement between opponents—deep into the spot on the rooster’s leg where its own spur once grew. The new spur is secured by hot glue and wrapped with gauze and twine. The rooster will not risk a broken spur in a fight; this one is removable, replaceable. The smell of glue mingles with the waft of empanadillas frying. Another man waits, holding a bird and a can of Medallia. No one seems to mind me.

Eddie isn’t fighting a bird today. He appears happy to instruct me. He sips his beer while he details the ingredients in an ideal rooster diet, the techniques of massage to toughen the skin, the price of vitamins, the intricacies of betting, the techniques of training and exercising a young bird, the time it takes to nurse a victorious cock back into fighting condition. I’m learning. Eddie smiles when he sees this.

“Look at that!” my father would cry as we sat together in front of the black-and-white TV late on a Friday night. “Did you see that jab? Look at him move!” But it wasn’t the boxers who kept me riveted to the set; I could never really tell one from the other as they danced in the ring, dodging and feinting. It was my father. He was all I cared about. And if I hung around long enough, perhaps I would discover the secret about the mysterious world of men.

Fighting cocks in cages and domestic roosters in neighboring yards crow in turn. The sky is huge and pale over the greens of palm trees and the light greens of cane fields. All afternoon I have watched bloody birds flying at one another. The spectacle does not alarm me. I accept it the same way I accepted the sight of glistening young men pounding each other with gloved hands.

The woman on the pink porch turns and goes indoors, perhaps to prepare a meal.

MH Dec. 2012Marie Harris was NH Poet Laureate from 1999-2004. She co-produced the first-ever gathering of state poets laureate. She has been a Visiting Writer at the Vermont Studio Center, where she has also been granted fellowships. She is the author of 4 books of poetry, including the prose poem memoir, Your Sun, Manny (2nd edition, with Epilogue; White Pine Press, 2010). She is co-editor of An Ear to the Ground: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (with Kathleen Aguero; Univ. of Georgia Press). Her children’s books include G is for Granite & Primary Numbers (Sleeping Bear Press) and The Girl Who Heard Colors (A Nancy Paulsen Book; Penguin, 2013).

Metaphor — by Kathleen McGookey

It’s a spotlight, flicked on. A globe full of air, suspended, no sloshing water, no fog. An onion, a turnip, a potato, peeled and ready for stew. A lost silver birthday balloon, rising in the sky. A charm made to hang from a sick girl’s neck. A dirty snowball, rolled in the yard. A stainless colander next to the white mixing bowl. For heaven’s sake, talk about something else. It doesn’t care who gazes upon it, especially you, unschooled, or your onion-skin promises, ring box open.

                                                  Mornings after, it’s a blood orange, sliced and dripping on the clouds. Make that tarnished silver dollar into a watch, and it just might love its own movement or the hands that stroke its face.
Kathleen McGookey
Kathleen McGookey’s most recent book is Stay. Her book At the Zoo is forthcoming from White Pine Press in spring 2017.  Her work has appeared in Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Field, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Quarterly West.  

Flash in April: Joyland to jellyfish, cats to Kalamazoo

Where to read, hear, and meet your favorite Flash Flash Click contributors:

your sickCarol Guess’s new collaborative short story collection Your Sick was just published by Jellyfish Highway Press. Her two co-authors are Elizabeth J. Colen and Kelly Magee.

Don’t miss Kathleen McGookey’s flash fiction reading April 25 in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Jim Ruland has a new catty story in Shadowgraph!

Lisa Locascio hosts a Joyland LA reading at Book Soup on April 28.

JSP Jacobs‘s short story, “Mary Lou Retton at 46,” appears in this edition of Nano Fiction, 9.2.

Roar Shack returns May 15 in Los Angeles with a new lineup of writers. David Rocklin hosts!

fullmoonMonica Nawrocki just published a juvenile fiction novel called Full Moon Lagoon.

William Reichard’s new book of poetry, Two Men Rowing Madly Toward Infinity, comes out in May from Broadstone Books.

David Rocklin‘s novel The Night Language sold to Rare Bird Books and will be published in 2017.

Maureen Gibbon’s latest novel Paris Red is now available in paperback.

Watch a new Jen Campbell review of Nin Andrews‘s Why God Is a Woman.

Pancakes — by Nin Andrews

after Joy Christiansons Erb’s photograph, “A Mother’s Love

It was the day of the tornado when I woke up late, still hung-over and dressed in my terrycloth bathrobe (the one I stole from a Marriott on our honeymoon), a pair of your brown socks, and remembered our argument from the night before,

how you said I was slothful and just laid around all day. You said I was unkempt, too, and complained that there were dust bunnies under the bed, the couch, the bureau. Who could sleep in a house like this? you asked. The last thing you said before you left was that I never cooked anymore and that you deserve a good home-cooked meal at least once a week.

Who do you think I am? I asked. Your maid? Your waitress? Your mama? What is it with men and their mothers anyhow?

But the next morning when I went into the kitchen, I pulled out the flour (picked a few cobwebs from the grains), the baking soda, the eggs, the butter, the milk, and the rusty skillet—the one you scrubbed with a Brillo pad last time I cooked, even after I told you not to. I turned on the stove and started mixing and heating and cooking pancakes, turning them, making each one was fat and light brown just the way you like them. I was so focused on nothing but pancakes,

I didn’t hear the news on the radio, didn’t notice the streets emptying outside, the strange greeny-blue filling the sky like oil paint, the birdless quiet as the world sucked in its breath. Or the whoosh of sudden wind that followed, the two pin oaks being ripped out of the ground and pieces of the neighbors’ rooftops scattering in the air like black wings (I saw all this later on the news)

because I was inside making pancakes. Whole altars of pancakes for Christ’s sake. For you, love, when you come back.

Nin Andrews
Nin Andrews is the author of twelve collections of poetry including The Book of Orgasms, Sleeping with Houdini, and her latest book, Why God Is a Woman.  The recipient of two Ohio Arts Council grants, her poems have appeared in many literary reviews and anthologies including Ploughshares, The Paris Review, The Best of the Prose Poem, and four volumes of Best American Poetry.

from Leafmold — by F. Daniel Rzicznek

Dear Amanda: for you, the Flora of the Cryptic Floating Empire. Our genitals wrapped in ivy. Our nipples pinched by beanstalks. The nuptial bed is a winter field. A snow of vows. The trail cameras capture nothing. Our essence evades the motion sensors nestled among ferns. Frogs scatter, leave unborn voices swiveling the pool’s dark. Yelps of dogs and geese above the leathery underbrush are quoted, misremembered, never heard again. Pieces of them take the air. Taillights and exhaust above pachysandra. The very fact of the stars on the ceiling. The fact of cider from the mill. The fact of longing, even if it is only an hour—absence in step with presence. Green grist beneath the wheel’s omnipotent motion. Our marriage the prehistoric hawk large enough to clutch a swan in one claw. Our marriage the Styrofoam lid embedded in summer mud. The traffic has a hollow, metallic vocal—a terrible fight with gravity. A boat of feathers forgotten where the waters sank. A narrative discoloration along the reeds, up and down through beautiful years. I join my cloud of dust with yours, dear.

F. Daniel RzicznekF. Daniel Rzicznek is the author of two poetry collections, Divination Machine (Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press, 2009) and Neck of the World (Utah State University Press, 2007), as well as four chapbooks, most recently Live Feeds (Epiphany Editions, 2015). His recent poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Volt, Kenyon Review, Massachusetts Review, The Pinch, Drunken Boat, and elsewhere. Also coeditor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry: Contemporary Poets in Discussion and Practice (Rose Metal Press, 2010), Rzicznek teaches writing at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.