Thursday, July 20, 2017

Affinity CoLab Presents! Summer I Issue

Dear Readers,

Happy SUMMER!!! We're celebrating the first half of the Summer season with an issue packed with short stories, essays, and poetry!

We begin our issue welcoming a first time contributor to Affinity CoLab! New contributor, Deep Blue River, submitted her spoken word "Lives of Precious Children" as read at our monthly coffeehouse reading at Steel City.

Katy Comber answers the prompt "One Thing is Missing," with a love story told in a series of three vignettes.

In the reflective and vulnerable flash memoir piece, Crash, Jan Backes reflects on an tragic event and answers the prompt, Something is Missing.

Poet and YA author of The Clock Tower, Sharon Hajj, reflects on the challenges of long distance friendship and loss with her poem, "I Remember Her."

We at Affinity CoLab are proud to publish two pieces from our regular contributor, Fred Feldman. His memoir piece "Stuck" was written and presented at our monthly reading at Steel City and his poignant response to the prompt "Resistance" is a journey we hope you all enjoy as much as we have.

Memoir essayist and regular speaker at our coffeehouse gatherings, Abby Cohen, delights us with a comic tragedy featuring the death of a beloved cat and an incompetent receptionist in "A Fond Farewell." 

First time contributor, Linda Cerynik, delighted the Affinity CoLab team with her response to the prompt "Click."

This issue's poetry series would not be complete without the provoking works of poet Pat D'Innocenzo and her three poems: "Brain Dump," "Ghosts," and "Missing in Action." 

Affinity CoLab is pleased to welcome back writer and photographer Sam Traten, as he answers the prompt "Something is Missing" (as read at our Steel City Coffeehouse reading in May).

Our Artists to Watch list is growing! Be sure to check out these awesome exhibits before they end.

There is still time to check out Anna Kocher's work live at Gryphon Coffee in Wayne!  

Lee Pohlsander is new on Affinity CoLab's Artist to Watch list! We were thrilled to see her exhibit at the Mont Co. Art Studio Tour. Please stop by Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville to see her work! 

Affinity CoLab's mission is to provide a platform for emerging artists and writers. If you would like to submit work to Affinity CoLab, we welcome writers and artists of all genres and mediums and ages. Please check out our prompts, respond, and submit to (or submit a piece that you just have an urge to share). Our next submission window for the Summer II issue will be July 25th to August 15th. Also check out our Story/Poetry Jams at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville, PA every 4th Sunday of the month from 2:00-4:00 pm!

Happy Reading! Happy Creating!

Katy Comber
Founder and Curator
Affinity CoLab

Poetry Series, Deep Blue River

Lives of Precious Children 
by Deep Blue River

I have seen it happen, too often. 
Lives of precious children--shattered.
(by bullies) 
      (by bullets)
lives of moms and dads 
      (turned upside down) 

Growing up we all want pretty much the same things: Love, acceptance, companionship, trust, a place to call home; to just be free to be ourselves. 

No one fits your square peg 
now come on--not really. 
Who is this ace in the hole
The hole in one 
Picture perfect 
Some American story? 

Not one (of us) 

We all fall short of some perceived perfection... 
whose measuring stick is this anyway? 
When I know I was created in God's own image. 

And that art,
ain't no junk. 

But then why, do we need to teach our children to hate differences? 
I feel my difference everyday. 

I go through life pretty much unaffected now; it wasn't always that way. 
(Things about me that I couldn't tell anyone)
(Things about me that I had to keep silent--when I was young)
I am surprised I survived.

And now it just makes me ache every time I see a child who has been turned into a bully. 
Who made him a monster? That he would bully another child? 
When will this world change its heart? 
When will relief come for the different little ones? 
Because in reality that's every one (of us). 

We are all different in our beautiful ways.
We are all beautiful in our different ways. 
However you want to say it. 
We are all born of love and born to be loved. 

Does it matter how I wear my hair
what car I drive
if I am gay or Trans? 
Does it matter if I am short or I am tall 
or If I am as bi as I am? 

Is it worth a child taking their life?
A precious child. 
God given child. 
Beautiful child. 

What are your motives in the name
Of God to torture innocent children 
With your foul remarks? 

Until their self esteem is battered 
into bloody oblivion. 
You leave them on the ground 
with a kick

Because of their sexual orientation or identity? 
Who made you men into Gods 
that you would take your power 
and rub it in a child's face? 
and teach your own kids to do the same. 

The fact is you feel powerless 
in your helpless 
inability to feel fit for the job of life 
you suck the life out of someone else. 

A child. 

Now just stop it. If no one else is going
To tell you. I will. 

This is not a poem. It's a rant. 
And I am done now. 
Be well. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

One Thing is Missing, Katy Comber

One Thing is Missing in Three Vignettes 
by Katy Comber


“One thing is missing.” she stepped back and studied the wall. 
“I’m not sure. But it’s driving me crazy.” 
We slid our backs down against a tree created for leaning. Its curved trunk molded by guests over time. Visitors with scattered, pacing thoughts needing something solid to support them as they mapped out their burdens. Lovers needing a space to be. Readers of books written to be lived under branches. Pages fluttering among their kin. Now, us. Two sisters staring at a wall and trying to figure out what was missing. 
We stared at that wall for a long time before Julia gasped beside me and pointed. The door that had once been an entry/exit point into our country was bricked in. The brick work was immaculate. Flawless. So you wouldn’t know what had been there in the first place. We looked at each other. Julia began to tremble. That door. It was the prologue to our life here. Our annual trek to this place had been invalidated. 


“One thing is missing.” He seemed annoyed. Bothered by this something’s absence, he lowered his camera and set it down. Sylvie squirmed. All this attention wasn’t necessary. She chided herself for falling in love with a photographer, and then he looked at her. When their eyes met a charge ran through her. His sideways grin at her blush. His wink. That look was the why. Why she had fallen in love with someone who had her sit until the light was right or as he tinkered with various lenses. This man could made her feel extraordinary with just one glance. He looked away first and dove quickly into his camera bag. His motions mimed a revelation! He had figured it out the something missing. Then he set the timer, paced quickly over, and wrapped Sylvie in his arms. 

“So you. You’re the one thing missing?” 
“Yep. And, well this.” 

Sylvie felt the ring glide onto her left hand and the camera clicked and the flash went off and the photo resolved into something never to be missed.


“One thing is missing.” I scowled and began the list again. Chair. Floor. Light. Apples. Bowl. Mary. Simon? Where was Simon? I looked to Mary. She caught my question before it could be verbalized. I don’t like when she does that. Just let me speak. 
“Simon has gone out, he’ll be back in a jiff.” She’s lying to me. I can see it. Why would she lie about Simon? I start my list again. Stool. Television. Coffee table. Tea cup. That girl. Why does she look at me like that. I’m breakable. That’s why. She wants in my head. 
“Where’s Simon?” There. I asked it out loud. The girl is making the face again. She’s going to wrinkle early. Pretty girl with frown lines. Pity. She’s saying something about running errands. I don’t want to run errands now. Oh. No. Simon is running errands. But how? 
“Isn’t he dead?” I demand it now. The one thing missing clicks. I hear it in my mind. The break. Like a twig snapping but the twig is the fog that lays thick over my thoughts. It’s receding. Simon. I stare at my hands and marvel at their lines and new freckles. Suddenly I miss that damned fog. I want to go back to a world where Simon will be back in a jiffy and has only popped out for a quick errand. This new world, the one that clicks in and out, isn’t for me. When I feel the fog rolling back I begin my list again: Photo of children. Photo of a tree and a wall that looks out of place. Photo of two girls hands pressed where a door should be. Photo of two people, man and woman, laughing under a tree meant for leaning. Photo of a young girl wrapped in arms and loved and peering up at her love. Her ring is like mine. Ring. Finger. Hand. Camera. Simon. 

“Where’s Simon?” 

Crash (Something is Missing), Jan Backes

by Jan Backes

I'd spent six months inpatient at Eagleville rehab and six months in their halfway house program beginning April 19, 1982. I was twenty four. 

I'd lost my CDL as a school bus driver and was sent to rehab because I'd admitted to another driver that I was smoking weed between runs. Deep down I knew that the driver I'd told would tell our manager. 

Being in rehab was like being in prison but not behind bars. We were on a campus. I could have walked away. Only, I had no where to go. I'd left Bucks County behind and landed in Montco. I knew nothing about the area; I knew no one. 

Somehow, in spite of myself, I had gotten sober and stayed in shape for the year and decided to go back and get my CDL. I was re-instated as a school bus driver and started my new life in Montco. 

It was June, 1983, the end of the school year, and I had a field trip to the Devon Horse Show. I'd dropped off the last of the students and was driving back to the bus garage. As I approached an intersection with a convenience store on one corner, I noticed a young girl waiting for the light to change. 

As it happens, she crossed on the red in direct line of my bus and I could not avoid hitting her. Luckily, she was not seriously injured. Because I had seen her. Because I knew that she might not see me. Mostly, because I was sober. 

Something is Missing, Sharon Hajj

I Remember Her
by Sharon Hajj

I remember her when I see someone eating Skittles.
We would go to the corner store before school to buy Skittles for math class.
We did pre-algebra problems while the colors burst in our mouths.
I should send her a letter.

I remember her when I hear someone talk about their friend moving away.
The corners of our states touched, holding on to our delicate connection.
But the miles weighed down the thinnest of threads before smothering them altogether.
I should find her new address.

I remember her when a friend gets married, has a child, or gets divorced.
On a trip, I reconnected with her briefly only to learn of heartache and trauma.
Keep in touch. Promises from both sides were broken.
I should reach out to her.

I remember her when someone talks about reuniting with an old friend and it feels like no time has passed.
It was true with us when we had hours of conversation over coffee.   
Our children finally met and I got caught up on the next part of her life.
I should send her a message.

I feel like a part of me is missing.

I remember her when her birthday passes, a day she shares with a holiday.
Her Facebook page held a heavy silence that engulfed the truth,
The dreaded truth, which I found when I searched for an obituary.

I should have kept in touch.   

Stuck, Fred Feldman

Author’s Note: This bit of nonfiction was an impromptu piece written and delivered at Affinity CoLab’s monthly Open Mic Event at Steel City Coffeehouse. The prompt was “Stuck.” I have edited for clarity and expanded a few parts.

Two Types of Chaos
by Frederick W. Feldman

I expect that anyone who has done any sort of creative work has experienced being “stuck.” Unsure of where to go next with a piece, or unable to settle on a worthwhile idea. It is the lot of the artist.

Oftentimes, being stuck is symptomatic of being unaware rather than any real lack of material – which is not much of a criticism, considering how difficult being aware is. We humans only function by being unaware of an awful lot, or else we’d be paralyzed. Being aware is no picnic – it is the process of descending into chaos and re-emerging with some sort of artifact. Very frequently, I find myself searching for a “great idea” – the sort you can put in quotes – and that never works out. A great idea is never found by looking for it, and my oft-made resolution to be extremely clever never suggests with it any process by which that goal might be accomplished.

But sometimes the chaos comes to you, which is what happened to me on the drive here.

As I drove down 113 near the intersection with Route 100, I saw a family of geese crossing the road. I live near a park, so we have a lot of geese around, but they don’t usually walk into the road. Rarely one or two geese will, but this was the first time I saw goslings crossing. I tried to gauge where they would be when I got to where they were. I slowed as I approached and was glad to see that the geese were passing out of my lane. A mother goose was trailed by one, two, five little goslings with their puffy light down. I wanted to be on my way and was glad I didn’t have to wait for who-knows-how-long while they crossed.

As I stepped on the gas and the geese appeared on my left, the car from the other lane was a bit ahead. I watched with some interest how this driver would react. Now he would have to wait – or would he swerve?

The sporty red car, reflecting the sun into my eyes, pulled past me and plowed into the line of geese. I saw the mother goose flap vainly, then an explosion of feathers, and I saw the round bodies of the goslings scattering across the road. Then, there must have been another goose up ahead, because a second explosion of feathers was followed by the flopping body of an adult goose getting spat out behind the car.

The red car didn’t slow and turned left onto 100 at the light.

I was jarred. I don’t know what kind of childhood you have to have to run over a family of geese without compunction, but it must have been pretty bad. That, or I don’t give John Calvin enough credit. I kept the radio on, but I couldn’t hear the music anymore. I felt as if I had witnessed a Flannery O’Conner story happen before my eyes. It was the same sort of random, shocking violence and disregard for life that she frequently portrays in her writings.

One type of chaos is the kind into which you descend. This is the chaos of the underworld. It is fearsome, but it can be harnessed. The underworld is where one goes when one needs guidance, like in The Odyssey, when Odysseus seeks the spirit of Tiresias in order to learn the way home. A successful trip out of the underworld brings direction and revivification.

I’m often struggling to find the entrance to the realm of the chaotic, but there is another type of chaos - the kind that finds you. It’s the sort that seems to have escaped from the depths of Tartarus, and sometimes it’s right next to you on 113, and you don’t really know what it is.

Resistance, Fred Feldman

Author’s Note: The story told here picks up where a previous story leaves off. The tale told here should stand on its own, but if the reader wishes to start at the very beginning, that may be found here.

Also, due to the length of this story, which exceeds that of the average short fiction piece, it has been broken up into three installments. The author hopes that this will make for a more manageable and pleasant reading experience.

The Royal Wedding
by Frederick W. Feldman

It is said the eyes are the window to the soul. Perhaps this is true. There are times when a glance can seem so packed with unsaid words that seeing it is like a jolt of static electricity. Thoughts suggest themselves to you after that look, like the trace of a whisper you can almost make out, intimating the gyre hiding behind the face now passing back into the crowd. Or maybe you have experienced a time when something you thought quite secret, either your own secret or someone else’s, became common knowledge overnight with no conceivable way for it to have gotten out. A guarded secret, kept in a locked cabinet, you overhear being discussed by two people at lunch. How did that occur? Perchance that which is unsaid can somehow leak out and find a life as a rumor, a rumor that appears to have generated spontaneously.
How else could the story have started, uncannily close to the truth, stating that Lord Auster of Milltown had an evil spawn locked away in the highest tower of the castle? This was the tale currently being kicked around in certain unhallowed corners of the village, where people cradled strong drink heavy with sediment and hungered for equally intoxicating gossip. There could be no basis in fact, for the few privileged enough to have access to this privileged information were sequestered within the walls of the manor and supremely jealous of their trust. The only one outside the manor who knew the story was a young man whose mouth could not speak a word.
That young man, name of Brian, worked in the pastry shop all day long. It was generally understood that he had upset someone that one did not want to go around upsetting. This was assumed because his lips had been sewn shut with surgical sutures, preventing him from uttering a word, and (curiously) no one seemed to object to this uncommon state of affairs. Whatever incident had led to his muting had also led to his being ostracized from his family. His family was well-to-do, so that was no small matter. His previously assured prospects for success were vanished, and he had become resigned to silently carrying out his duties as a lowly assistant. In the past, he had also been known to run around with a young woman with whom he often got into trouble. She had mysteriously disappeared around the same time that Brian had had his mouth stitched shut, and she had never been heard from again. No one seemed to talk about these two; probably they were afraid of the whole situation. If they could keep it out of mind, they did. And, all in all, they could. The residents of Milltown only had to endure the young Brian when they went to the pastry shop, where a little bit of drool escaped from his sealed lips as he tended to the fragrant warm treats and desserts that he would never be able to taste. Suffice to say, his secrets were safe with him.
Thus, having no real facts to hang onto, the rumor persisted anaemically, unable to gain traction. However, the mere fact that it had somehow sprung into existence meant it would struggle to survive until it could find a willing host. But for the time it lay dormant, and the public imagination was stirred by more significant news that had just been released that day. Artemis Dolan found out about this news after entering the pastry shop and seeing Brian, the young man, reading the latest issue of The Manor with the announcement emblazoned on the cover. In his surprise, Artemis forgot to shun Brian.
“Heloise is marrying Prince Jeffrey?!” he exclaimed.
Brian looked up and nodded at him, eyes wide to communicate incredulity. It was true. The announcement of the planned marriage of Heloise Auster to the eldest prince of West Chester had come straight from the Auster’s official spokesman.
“That ass?! I can’t believe it. That useless lump is not worthy of someone like Heloise.” huffed Artemis.
Brian chuckled. The prince, afflicted with poor genes compounded by inbreeding, was notably infirm. Public opinion of him was that he was also weak in character, childish, and unfit both for his title and for life in general. When he did engage in the pomp and circumstance of royalty, the public viewed him as emblematic of the disintegrating legacy of an embattled family. On the other hand, Heloise was admired for her beauty and grace.
Artemis let out a huge sigh and shook his head. “I’ve got to pick up my muffins,” he said. “I ordered twenty-four muffins for a party tonight. They should be done.”
Brian nodded his head with a jerky chopping motion and pulled on some gloves. He ran into the back room. Artemis heard him clanking around, and he skimmed Brian’s magazine while he waited. Upon his return, he pushed it away and said meditatively, “I know it’s…politically expedient, but some things just seem indecent, don’t you think? A lovely noblewoman like that with a sad excuse for a human like him…it seems wrong”
Brian nodded vigorously as he wrapped up the muffins, his eyebrows knit in hearty assent. It had been ages since anyone had talked to him with this amount of familiarity, so he chose to respond with enthusiasm.
“We’re just unworthy citizens, though. What do our opinions matter?” He took the muffins from Brian and, looking closely at his face, remembered who he was talking to, and became repulsed. He stiffened up and became awkward as he held the two dozen muffins against his chest. “Don’t I wish I had my own princess, ha ha. Good day. Um, good day.”
Brian tried to smile at him, as he did to every customer, and the sutures stretched his lips grotesquely, as always. The heavy door slammed shut as the man left, upsetting the shop chime, which hiccupped its clean tone and then cut off with a lame plink. Brian watched as Artemis walked away, hoisting his muffins in front of him.

A Fond Farewell, Abby Cohen

A Fond Farewell
by Abby Cohen

I want to start off by saying, I realize how wrong it is to have a funny story about a death of a beloved cat. Nevertheless, I have one. This cat, rechristened Loki after first being called Kitten, earned his name. Nobody tempted fate, naming a cat for the Scandinavian god of mischief just to see if he would live up to it. (Of course, all of this was way before Avengers movies and Loki being a villain in a black suit).
Loki grew into a middle-aged cat with digestive problems. We’d guessed he had eaten something bad like rubber bands and took him to the vet to get the bad thing out of there. The vet assumed there was a snarl in the intestines to snip out, and that after surgery the cat would go on to live nicely with a shorter set of guts. Surprise, everybody was wrong.
The cat had cancer. The disease was filling his stomach and spreading from there. I sat there sobbing in the vet’s office on the phone with my ex; the vet asking whether we wanted the cat put down right there or sewn back up and taken home. If we had known in advance what would happen we might have opted differently, and I still don’t know if we chose correctly.
The visit felt like a sucker punch. I took Loki home. Complete with cone of shame from pointless surgery. The vet prescribed a diet of baby food which the cat adored. Jars of beef, lamb, chicken. No vegetables allowed. If we’d known, Loki would’ve gotten baby food as an occasional treat all along. More guilt. Plus, thanks to baby food, I got endless coupons from the supermarket for baby stuff for years afterwards, instead of stuff I could actually use.
Loki got sicker and smellier, and we began to wonder if we should have to put him down after all. We cancelled our Passover celebration because the apartment reeked of sick cat, and yet the cat kept enjoying the heck out of his baby food and outlived  the vet’s prediction for his lifespan. I asked the vet for advice about Loki’s death at home, and he suggested a large cooler for transportation purposes, so Loki could be cremated. We were not planning to keep the “cremains”.
I prepared for Loki’s death and bought a large Styrofoam cooler, and even MORE baby food.  Then, we went away for my ex-sister-in-law‘s wedding for the weekend, a rollercoaster ride of material for a different story.  We did not leave the cat alone. A friend kept Loki company for most of the weekend. It wasn’t until she finally left. Loki seemed to have been waiting for her to go; for a little privacy to die in peace and quiet. It was then, that he crawled under the sideboard and died. It could have been worse, I guess. He could’ve died under the bed.
When we got home, we couldn’t find the cat. We finally spotted him under the sideboard and discovered something interesting. Most people who have read or watched at least one murder mystery know about rigor mortis. Guess what? I don’t know how long it takes for rigor mortis to set in a large cat as opposed to a person, or how long  it takes to wear off, but I can tell you it’s definitely a real thing.
Loki was stiff as the proverbial board and wedged behind the legs of the sideboard. For reasons I’m still not clear about, it was my job to extract Loki and put him in that styrofoam cooler. My ex-wife went and hid in the bedroom. Years later, when it got ugly and she accused me of taking, taking, and taking and never giving back--this is the thing I should have thrown back at her, “Hey! I extracted that stiff as a board cat from between the legs of the sideboard and made it fit into a box too small for a large cat in full rigor mortis.” Sadly, this did not occur to me at the time.
In any case, I did somehow succeed in making Loki fit in the box, thanking any powers above, that I had not bought the next size smaller. Afterward, we decided we did not wish to spend the night under the same roof as our cat’s corpse. We could have put him in the car. Or the storage locker. Or just out in the laundry room, where he might have been stolen by someone who would’ve gotten a surprise. Instead, we called the ASPCA.
Most branches closed early on Sundays, but we found one that was open longer and we could just make it. Stressing the whole way about the timing (and the days before GPS) only one of us knew where we were going. Guess what? That was me. My ex-wife refused to believe it, but I was right and we got there in time.  
When we arrived, I stayed in the car. I had done my bit for humanity and cats everywhere. She went in with the cooler and relayed what happened next. The clerk should have been working somewhere else, possibly a factory or something with very little human contact. The girl, I hesitate to use the word woman, insisted on filling out the in-take form as if the cat was still alive,
“What was the cat’s name? What gender?’ And, I mean this, “Is the cat was good with children?” Actually, he never was to be honest. Possibly better with children dead than alive. Then she wanted to know if the we wanted the styrofoam cooler back. No, we don’t want the cooler used to transport our dead cat. What would we have done with it? Is there anyone who would keep their picnic lunch or even cans of beer in the container that had held a dead cat?

On second thought, perhaps a factory might well have been the wrong place for this young lady. Possibly, garbage collector would be better. But I fear I am doing a disservice to those everywhere who serve that honorable profession. I am sure a decade or so of life’s bounces may have caused her to be a more sensitive soul. Or possibly not. But I do hope she stopped asking people if their dead cats and dogs were good with children.

Click, Linda Cerynik

by Linda Cerynik

Space bar. 
Magic moment
Youthful glory
Silent story
Memory mixing
Truth and fiction
Proud parading
Photo fading.

Poetry Series, Pat D’Innocenzo


Jagged crosses, sharp teeth, splintered glass
Images move across the landscape.

They show no obvious link.
They stride through my thoughts.

Green edges, loud voices, soft whispers
Round two comes to the fore.

They jive for position in my memory.
They disturb and awaken.

The detritus of dreamland fighting the edge of dawn.


A muddled heap of white cloth straddles the highway line.
Tossed by the winds, skirted by cars,
A shadowy relic of a former life

A bicycle leans against the stone barn.
A white scarf tied to its handles
Drifts toward the ground.
Ghostly evidence of a young boy and his kite.

A mysterious piece of white drifts onto the path.
A small sail of packaging escaped from the trash heap.
Litter with a life
Left seeking a better use.

Two wooden stakes festooned with tattered strips of white sheeting
Silent sentries they stand guard over a missing place.
Echoes of a dream circle the empty field
Seeking something called home.

What was is not.
Bleached, frayed, stripped of meaning
Remnant reminders of things gone by.
Discards tinged by melancholy.


Not dead – gone.
Wearing her coat & scarf & high heels she’s walking away.  She glances back a time or two but never hesitates moving on.  When I ask why she is leaving she tells me I worked her too hard.  I want to come along.  A single word reply – NO.

What can I tell you about her?

She was mighty.
She was determined.
She was resourceful.
She was a warrior.
She was imaginative.
She believed.

The image is shades of grey.  No color can touch it.  It has been drained away.

She is not coming back.   She is mad.  She is unhappy.  Even though she heads into the darkness she is surefooted.  

Her qualities have not changed, just her address.

For more information and poetry by Pat D'Innocenzo, check out the following links!

Amazon Books:
Durham Publishing:

The anthology is also available on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.