Saturday, May 26, 2018

100 Words, Linda Cerynik

100 Words

If I only had 100 words
To tell you how much I ...

They said don’t miss the train.
Frozen on the platform
Hands on head
Tailwind blasts my face.

They said don’t miss the plane.
Paralyzed on the tarmac
Sharp, pointed angle, 
And away to the clouds. 

If I only had 100 words 
To tell you how very much I ...

You sit across the worn oak 
Coffee steam swirling between
Wall clock ticks 
On tabletop I take your hand
If I only had 100 words
I’d probably spill 97 
Trying to say
I love you. 
Friday, May 25, 2018

Gathering, Deep Blue River Poetry

The Gathering // 2018 DBR 

In heaven they're having a meeting 
To discuss what the hell's going on 
And they've sent the 144k 
To help us finish this song 
somewhere there's a gathering of angels 
On a tarmac 
Headed to flight 
In a plane
In a train 
On a bus 
Bound for Vegas 
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The “We Decided to Boycott Winter and Come Out With a Mid-Spring Issue Instead” Issue

Hello Readers!

What a time it has been! Affinity CoLab and the Just Write Meet-up have joined together to collaborate on what is now Creative Light Factory Writers' Room! Affinity CoLab is delighted to have a space in which to work and play. We will continue to have our Story Slam at Steel City Coffeehouse every 4th Sunday from 2-4pm. Which brings me to...

Guest hosts! The May Story Slam/Poetry Jam will have the clever and funny Jenn Wismer and Abby Cohen co-hosting! No word on the theme yet, but it is sure to be a truly special event.

This issue we are proud to present:

Five Things I Know to Be True, by Katy Comber 
Five Things I Know to Be True, by Fred Feldman
Comfort Food, by Fred Feldman 
Fire and Fury, by Abby Cohen
Comfort Food, by Abby Cohen
DNA, by Linda Cerynik

If you have a piece of writing, art, photography, etc. you would like to share, please consider sending it our way! We are a platform for emerging artists and writers and Affinity CoLab's mission is to display work of the not-yet discovered.

Happy Spring!
Katy Comber
Affinity CoLab Editor

Five Things I Know to Be True, Katy Comber

“Stop what?” 
“You are doing it again.” 

Paul knew what Sophie meant by “it” but asked her to define it anyway. 

“Lying.” Sophie’s heart thrummed in her throat as she spat out the word that began all conflict in the Mortimer household. Paul couldn’t seem to help it, and his way of altering the truth and telling her stories used to be her favorite thing about him. Used to. How he colored the world. Tell the truth but tell it in a slant. Who was that? Dickinson? Paul’s face crumpled. He just wanted to tell Sophie about his day, but nothing exciting ever happened at the shoe store. So he made up an eight foot tall woman in urgent need of stilettos and a penguin marching for animals rights down brand street this stuff used to make her laugh. He loved her laugh. 

 Okay. Here’s an idea. How about I start telling you five things I know to be true? 
Just five? 
Baby steps. 

One: I love you. 
Two: I love you. 
Three: I love you. 
Four: I love you. 

Paul couldn’t get to five before Sophie began to weep. At first it seemed like a victory. Paul had made his wife so happy she was crying. 

“Stop.” she whispered. 

It wasn’t until she said it, that Paul realized, Sophie’s tears weren’t from joy and gratitude. And that something inside her was whispering that numbers 1-4 were just as untrue as the penguin waddling around with a protest sign.

Paul looked into his wife’s eyes and stared through a hazel galaxy he once swore to himself he’d memorize. 

Five. He cleared his throat and made sure Sophie was listening. Five, Sophie Jane Mortimer. I love you more than life. I love you more than words. I love you more than stories. 

It was then Sophie realized what Paul was saying. What he was willing to give up for her. Sophie reached down and picked up the notebook she’d purchased that morning. 
"You don’t need to stop telling stories, Paul. Just, maybe, for now. Tell them in here." 

Sophie handed Paul the one subject wired bound and kissed his cheek. And then, with the blessing of his favorite person, Paul picked up a pen, opened to the first blank page, and began to write. 

Comfort Food, Fred Feldman

Breakfast Cereal
By Frederick W. Feldman

Marius’ mother had eggs, bagels, butter, tomatoes, and celery in the cart. She picked up a package of cookies and put it in the cart. She steered the cart round the corner and let it coast down the cereal aisle. She squinted her eyes, like a hawk searching for prey. She was, in fact, looking for cereal––but not any cereal. The only brand of cereal she would buy. And whether she fried eggs or toasted a bagel with cream cheese, she always poured out a bowl for Marius at breakfast. As someone who had earned her degree in English, she felt it was her duty as a mother.

After a bit of scanning, she found it. It was the brand being published by the State University. After the institution had merged with the large cereal manufacturer, they had periodized the brand and renamed it to “post-Post Cereal.” Every box purchased benefited the English department that produced the cereal. In spite of that, Marius’ mother never felt guilty passing by the fresher boxes and picking one that had a remainder mark. They were a lot cheaper and just as edible. If she didn’t take them, they would just go to waste.

The State University had entered the world of breakfast food after it had been forced to look for other ways to sustain itself, and going into cereal had been an inspired and elegant solution. The cause of this desperation, for one, was that the academic job market had become hopelessly competitive. There had been a massive surplus of PhDs for years, and, in order to get hired, candidates took to publishing articles at breakneck speeds. Meanwhile, tenure was reserved for only those in their most autumnal years* and currently-employed professors had to publish even more in order to keep their positions.

*There had recently been a cover story in the news about Prof. Herman W. Hermann, the cherished scholar of avant-garde Slovene literature, who had spent twenty-five years as an adjunct, twenty years as an assistant professor, thirty years as an associate professor, and was finally granted full professorship a day before he died. The celebration party had been combined with his funeral. Even the mayor attended.

This led, in turn, to a surfeit of journal articles of often-questionable quality, most of which were never cited, much less read, even once. They went from the press to the archive with no stops in-between. The universities were inundated with lots of useless articles in useless journals and no way to get rid of them, until someone (likely in the business department) had the idea of getting into the cereal trade. This helped the English department recoup the funds dwindling. Their funds had dwindled partly due to low enrollment as the populace became more and more unfairly prejudiced against the university (claiming its scholarship was “pointless”) and mostly due to funds being allocated over to student amenities (the State University had recently unveiled a tanning salon for their students). Getting into the cereal business also allowed the State U to take care of their paper problem through their innovative cereal recipe; using a mixture of flour, water, sugar, and recycled journals.

So, knowing that she was giving back to her alma mater, it was with pride that Marius’ mother served him a bowl of post-Post Cereal every day. Sure, the STEM fields offered more practical degrees, but everyone knew that a liberal arts education taught you to think,

and that the humanities

were the key

to a well-rounded


Five Things I Know to Be True, Fred Feldman

Audiodiary of a Neurotic: Elsie Speaks
By Frederick W. Feldman


hey, it’s . . .

hang on . . .

[hum of people]

so, uh, this is Elsie’s audiodiary. hi.


i’m walking out the door right now.

[automatic door opening. traffic sounds]

five things I know to be true. i’m walking away from the wegman’s to my car.

[brief pause]

my car is blue.


if the sun hits it right it makes a starburst on the rim around the back door. it’s old. it doesn’t look beautiful. it looks like a poor person’s car. not super poor, just, like, inconsequential. rich enough to buy cheap food and housing and live in america; poor enough to be unworthy of notice. rich enough to buy a meagre independence, but too broke to afford friends. friends are expensive—meals, movie tickets, gas, etcetera.

[car alarm. beeping]

that’s not mine, just fyi. if you can hear that. the car alarm.

i joined this writing group. they give us prompts and things and we have to respond to them. so I’m supposed to come up with five things I know to be true. what kind of greeting-card nonsense is that. i probably don’t even know five true things. the bag is splitting. an apple fell out. it’s rolling down the road. should I get it. it rained recently. there’s rain on the road. puddles, I mean. i won’t get it. how much did I pay for it.

too much, since it rolled down the road and I can’t eat it anymore.

[door slam]

i know I am unimportant. i wonder if all the other people walking past me in the parking lot and the people who were walking in the wegman’s know they are unimportant too. they are going to die and I’m not going to care, not even a little. unless they’re on the news or in the paper and the paper makes it sound sad. then I will care and I will feel sad that they died—for about five minutes maybe. and then I will remember them once more at lunch and that will be it. maybe I will remember them once more, by accident, a lot of time later, or if I am on purpose thinking about things I forgot, like now. but I can’t even remember anyone now.


i was born in a honeycomb. i hatched out of it like a bee. we all come from somewhere, and any history is the same as no history.

[sound of engine]

are bees actually born in honeycombs, or do they just put honey in there.


here is something I know: rabbits, when they get run over by a car, leave a dark stain on the road. i know that for sure. you can see their redness beneath where their skin was stripped apart, like they got opened along a seam. They get split open, just like a little stuffed rabbit, except someone (God, I guess) stuffed them full of red meat and now it’s all coming out. and then something I thought I knew (a rabbit) looks like something I don’t know at all. and when I first see a rabbit on the road, i don’t realize whether its a rabbit or a pile of trash because it doesn’t look like a rabbit. sometimes I think I see a dead rabbit on the road but it’s actually trash, just some trash that’s wet or a tire or something i don’t even know. so I guess I don’t know rabbits at all because i didn’t know they could open up like that. They don’t even seem like rabbits then. that’s not something i know to be true.


i know all four volumes of plutarch’s lives. i read them all in college when i was taking a history course and i decided to go above and beyond, totally go crazy, and read all four volumes of plutarch’s parallel lives. i felt that, in order for success, i had to take on some difficult task. i wore myself out reading all that in one semester, in addition to my other classes. but i thought that, once i had that knowledge, no one could take that away from me and that would be the building block that could take to . . . wherever it was i wanted to go. a writer or a scholar or something maybe. i thought that would lead me to it, and help me find out what it was.

once i went to a speaking event with a group from my high school class (this was during high school and it was at princeton university. i don’t remember what it was about, honestly. no, I didn’t go to Princeton. just a visit.) and there was supposed to be a lot of waiting and i was afraid i would get bored so i brought a book. it was a Wodehouse. this and that happened and i ended up only reading about a chapter, but i had the book with me the whole time our group spent traipsing back and forth across the campus on a warm day and my hands are clammy anyway so by the time the event was done my paperback was all warped and rippled from my own palm sweat. that’s my knowledge of plutarch: my soggy destroyed book i thought i would need but didn’t but still had to carry around everywhere.

actually I once met a guy who was really into greek and roman history. i forgot how it came up. it was at a college thing. He was kind of cute and i would have liked to not part ways forever, but i was too embarrassed that i knew so much about plutarch, so i let him think i didn’t know much about the history but had just, like, a casual interest and let him explain things i already knew and then we parted. I can’t blame him. why would he be impressed with some dilettante who didn’t seem to know anything. I wouldn’t have been impressed with myself. if was another girl looking at myself i would have had scorn for me. but if i knew that i was hiding my knowledge because i was embarrassed about it, i would have felt a sort of tender pity for me, even maybe a bit of admiration. that’s dumb, i know. but i would be able to relate to it.

. . . well, obviously.

[mirthless chuckle]

love is not something i know to be true. i like the idea of it, but i’m not sure what it looks like and I don’t know how to love anyone. i don’t love other people like I should, don’t love myself, don’t love God the way I ought.

[brief pause]

if I know anything about death, I know my goldfish is dead. sixth grade. forgot to feed him. Smelled bad. looked worse. his name was alfred. poor fish. hope he swims happily in the river lethe now. probably not. he’s probably eating poop and weird fungus in acheron. and it’s all my fault. the fate of fish’s souls are determined by the goodness of their owner’s care for them. forgive me, alfred.


I know that consciousness is a . . . a f------ miracle. if I could take the miracle of consciousness and sell it in a foaming soap push-bottle, I would. then people could buy it if they wanted it and take a little bit when they felt like it, and it would wear off after a couple hours and they wouldn’t be bothered by it when they were trying to sleep.

[engine. pause]

i work at the movie theater. i got a degree in philosophy and now I work as a shift supervisor at the movie theater. all the folks who got “practical degrees” snicker at me. “She should have studied something useful.” i am their object lesson, their fool. but this is the only thing i am good at. scholarship, thinking, writing. but not good enough to distinguish myself. i suppose i knew what i was getting into. i had problems i wanted to solve and a b.a. in phil seemed like a way to explore those problems. and I wanted to take the history of thought upon myself. the philosophers of yore would be my fathers and I would be their daughter. the idea, I guess, was to write books or something. or go on for a master’s. but now I can’t afford a master’s degree, and I’m stuck in this job. all the employees, they just stay all day at the theater. they’ll be off their shifts and just be hanging around on their phones. i ask why they’re still here and they say “just hanging out.” don’t they have anything better to do? but then, I go home afterwards, and I don’t have anything better to do there.

[pause. engine puttering]

that’s why i’m in this writing group. to focus on my craft, ostensibly. a perpetual beginner. i will begin, and begin, and begin until I give up or die. Probably the latter, since in the former there’s a certain hope made possible in despairing of possibility. but I’ve always thought that despair is commensurate to the degree of hope that goes unfulfilled. such that someone going through the entire life, suffering, with a single hope leading them on, only to have that hope dissipate into the washpot of eternity as they die—that’s unimaginable despair. usually i get a weird kick out of despair, but not that. that keeps me awake at night.

i think I’m as afraid of visibility as I am afraid of obscurity. there: I psychoanalyzed myself. all my problems should solve themselves now. i’m afraid of dissolving. i’m afraid of my essence dissipating like puke in the rain. i write, i think, i struggle—to make something of myself, to carve a little niche in the world where I fit. but the world proves surprisingly resistant, and so does myself. other days I don’t. i’m too tired, or too depressed, or too wired. either way, whoever “I” am would be lost to everyone whether i ended up on everyone’s coffee table or alone in hovel. There’s no solution, but i have to eat. i guess.

[jingle of keys. quiet.]

what do I know is true. for a while I thought I wanted to die (this was shortly after I got over the fear of death, and I’m not even sure I’m over that entirely. i think mostly I am), but a couple months ago I was driving down the highway, there was snow, and for whatever reason I was totally spaced out, and someone pulls out in front of me and I don’t notice until I’m almost on them. i pound on the brakes and skid and I come this close to hitting them, missing their bumper only by sliding into the next lane, and seeing the headlights of oncoming traffic coming straight at me, and the cars in the other lane swerving just in time not to hit me. and that was when I realized that I didn’t want to die. that surprised me more than nearly crashing. but i recovered and pulled back onto the road and drove to wherever I was going. or maybe I didn’t. i don’t remember. i just remember being shaken and flabbergasted by the will to live. so honestly I don’t know what I want anymore.


do I smell bad?

i wonder sometimes. sometimes after half a day i smell my underarms from my shirt. i wonder if people think I have offensive body odor. but i can’t ask anyone that.


i’m home now. i’ve just been sitting in the driveway.

this didn’t help me at all. the “talking cure,” they call it. it’s no cure. more like a sickening grinding, a wearing down. honestly, i don’t even know if i want to be a writer. this is a silly and cruel writing prompt. i don’t think I’m going to participate in this one. i can make up some excuse. i think I’ll do that.

i’m feeling blue now. i’m going to watch tv.

bye audiodiary. i don’t like you; i think you’re gross.


Fire and Fury, Abby Cohen

Janet watched the fire across the street not with dismay, but with shock and fear. This couldn’t possibly be happening in her neighborhood.  Not her hip up-to date suburb with its mix of people of every color, sexual preference, and political stripe. Somehow, miraculously while everywhere else in the state, the country, the whole planet seemed engaged in screaming at each other, their little microcosm had agreed to get along, cooperate, help each other out now and again. 

Everyone she knew outside her area scratched their heads and said it couldn’t last. This present day horror show would invade her utopian Never Neverland, and she would be wise to mentally prepare for it. She had laughed and shaken her head. They were all wrong. This community of good will could be maintained and even exported to those around them. All they had to do was keep at it.
Not that it was perfect. People’s marriages broke up, kids got into trouble, somebody got fired and went broke before getting a new job. It was a great place, but not actually Shangri-La. Even then, for the most part, folks would lend a hand and help each other through bad times.

And now, some stupid boys who might or might not learn the error of their ways down the road, had lit a match. It had been coming for a while. Some rabble-rousing demagogue wannabe on the edge of the city had surrounded himself with a bunch of malleable young men and taught them hate and skull shaving; a free tattoo to the boy who could answer a quiz on mein kampf and the protocols of zion. Or however he worked. 

They had bought mailing lists of the towns around them and begun to target the people they found suitable to hate. Graduating from exploding mailboxes and bags of burning excrement to stones with horrible messages thrown through windows. And now this. They may have simply meant to burn a cross on the lawn of her neighbors. But this symbol of a man who may or may not have ever lived, who had probably simply been a fighter for equal rights for his people before being executed turned into this misbegotten emblem of hatred and bigotry had touched off a fire in the bushes in front of the house and then the house itself. 

The firemen had come quickly and were fighting hard but the house was done from what she could see. They had gotten it under control now, and it looked like the houses on either side were out of danger. She was sure the family had insurance. Professionals like her and her husband, with two foster kids and a nephew adopted after the parents had died, this blended family with as many colors as Joseph’s coat had been the one that always made the papers when someone wanted to write a story about her wonderful little world. The Washington-Garcia family might as well have put a sign on their backs saying, "attack here." 

What was she thinking? She never had cynical thoughts like that. And now she did. Her world had changed. She watched as all the neighbors stood outside, watching the fire, and each other, and wondered what would happen now. Reality had invaded her paradise of lovingkindness. Would the neighbors continue to care for one another in the same way? Would everyone bond together even more closely?

Perhaps not. Some people might say, I told you so. I told you all the (fill in the blank here) people    were all alike. They hate us. We have to hate them back. You can’t trust any of them. She was filled with fury at the mere possiblilty. She took a deep breath. And said NO. Not here. We can rebuild this house, this life, this world. It doesn’t end like this. I won’t let it. Janet crossed the street and set her hands on the shoulder of each of the younger children and said to their parents, 
"You’ll stay with us tonight and as long as you need to."

Around her began the murmurs as everyone else chimed in with offers to help. Frank Bingham whose ancestors came over before the Mayflower, held Mrs. Feinbaum who was trembling like the proverbial leaf. They began to plan what would happen next. The man who said the center cannot hold was wrong. It wasn’t over. It was only the beginning.