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  • Clay Literary

RAVEN- Issue One (07/19/2020)

Updated: Jul 18

Fragments of Absences Converging


Photographed by Jakky Bankong-Obi


What the author says about the piece:


"The photos where taken on two different foggy mornings while on a walk here in Abuja, Nigeria. I call them, 'Fragments of Absences Converging'. This is mostly because of the quality of degradation of the subject yet having some kind of flourishing along with it. It represents the fluidity with which living things are both alive and yet dying. The poignancy of it all."







Photographer Bio: Jakky Bankong-Obi lives and writes from Abuja, Nigeria. Jakky has work in/forthcoming in Kalahari Review, Amberflora Zine, Gutter Magazine, Ethelzine and Hobart Pulp. She loves to take long walks and dabble in nature photography. Find her on Twitter as @jakkybeefive.


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Obnoxious Yellow Cow


Written by Tucker Lieberman Mir had actually won the cow, the stuffed yellow monstrosity, all floppy shoulders and hips. The toy was almost as big as she was, and she had draped it over her body and was parading it over the fairground. It had giant plastic eyes, half-lidded, as though it were surprised yet not at all enthused to find itself at the fair. I was mad because I’d tried to win the cow, too, but my beanbag hadn’t plopped against the lever hard enough. They only give you two throws, and neither of mine had been strong enough. Before the beanbag throw, I’d had my fortune told from a coin-operated machine. The fortune was inauspicious. A moving mannequin behind the glass—bald, unisex—had wagged its waxy finger at me, and the machine spit out a little card. It said: “Your journey will be long. Your arrival is uncertain.” The card was still in my pocket. And then, at the beanbag throw, I’d barely hit the lever, but Mir positively smashed it. A bell went off, a cowbell, I guess, and the barker handed over the stuffed cow to her. It was hot and I wanted a soda. I began to wander away. “Mo,” she said, fidgeting with the multiple cow legs wrapped absurdly around her neck, trying to get me to wait up. “No,” I said, over my shoulder. I stood in the first line I found, huffy, just to look as though I had somewhere more important to be. By the time I realized I was queued up for the rollercoaster, it was too late for me to change my decision. Mir was watching me and I couldn’t back out. Of course she couldn’t join me on the rollercoaster; she had to watch over that inanimate bovine and treat it as though it were a thing of value. So I got strapped into the little car alone. This is what I know of rollercoasters: The ascent is slow, the machine works hard, and, while you climb, you haven’t yet let go of the world. But the moment you pause at the top—that’s when the fear of God takes hold of you. My shorts were thin fabric, and the cardpaper fortune in my pocket poked its itchy corners into my thigh. I disliked the fortune not because of its cardpaper stock but because of the format of its sentences. A real fortune, I believed, should first prove its psychic provenance by telling me something I already know about my past, and then, once it has gained my confidence, it should tell me something I don’t know yet about my future. But this fortune from the machine only vaguely claimed that I don’t know where I’m going. “The journey will be long. The arrival is uncertain.” What’s that supposed to do for me? How annoying. How obvious. “Unless —” the thought came to me, “—that is my past and future.” A long journey in the past. An uncertain arrival in the future. It felt, suddenly, almost like a revelation. One brief fortune might become, say, ten fortunes of what to do and not do. And maybe I would receive the whole story of my life, including what was still to come, heavy though it might be. It was as if I had caught a glimpse of who I truly was. Maybe it was all about this moment. “Wait.” The gears stopped cracketing and the car paused. From this height, I wondered if I could see Mir on the ground with that obnoxious yellow cow, but it made me dizzy to look. No, worse than dizzy. “Mo!” I thought I heard her calling to me from below. But it might have been the wind. It was most likely my imag—




Author Bio: Tucker Lieberman is the author of three nonfiction books: Ten Past Noon, Painting Dragons, and Bad Fire. His short fiction is in anthologies published by Owl Canyon, Mad Scientist, STORGY, and Microcosm. He lives in Bogotá, Colombia, an hour’s walk from a park with a roller coaster.  You can see more of his work at www.tuckerlieberman.com.


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Where We Are Now


Written by Serena Piccoli


The hideous statue has finally fallen.

Dust on too many ashes




Author Bio: Serena Piccoli is a poet, playwright, performer, and a poetry translator, who writes in both English and Italian. Piccoli's work has been published in various anthologies in the USA and UK and published a chapbook of poems, silviotrump, (Moria Poetry, Chicago, USA). Piccoli is a transfeminist, lesbian, and human rights activist, who writes about social issues, such as gender violence, economic crisis, and social injustice. She has also performed very widely at poetry and theatre festivals all over the world.


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Jephthahs's Daughter


Written by Hope Parker


Weak light filters in through the stained-glass windows, a mottled twilight halo around the emaciated man hanging from the cross, head pierced with a crown of thorns, and nails driven into his limbs. The Friday evening has called many away, though I prefer to find my salvation on nights like tonight. This is the last time, I promise myself. High lofted beams hold up the nave and, like every other time I’ve been here, I worry about the sound my heels make on the floors as I echo down the main aisle. There is a smattering of patrons in the pews. I choose one that is empty a few rows from the altar. I am not afraid of my own transgressions against God. I pull out a black lace scarf that I keep in my purse and slide it over my head, adhering to traditions that were settled long before I could question them. The soft intonement of a hymn begins and I let myself sink into the familiarity of the prayers. For one hour, once a week, I am awash in the words that temper my soul and force me to plant roots in my wandering sense of morality. “Peace be with you.” “And also with you,” I parrot back. The priest enters the chapel and opens the dated book onto the wooden stand in front of him. He looks tired today. His green eyes are the only part of him that remain vibrant, that betray his meager 35 years. In the past month, his cassock has begun to hang off of him and more and more he resembles a shadow of who he was. His lifestyle is not easy on him. His eyes meet mine as he speaks about sacrifice, telling the obscure story of Jephthah, the warrior who promised God that if he won the battle he was entrenched in, he would give the first living being to greet him at home to God himself. Jephthah expected to see an animal run out of his humble stable but, instead, his daughter emerged. True to his word, he gave his daughter two months of life and then sacrificed her to the God that kept him alive on the battlefield. A life for a life. A woman fallen victim to man’s obligation to duty. His gaze doesn’t waver until he finishes his sermon. He packages it as a warning to follow through on your promises to God, regardless of how cruel the outcome. He looks away and reaches for the dish of wafers and a glass of wine. He holds them out to the congregation and breaks the body of Christ. “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us,” I recite, my voice threading through the mumbles around me. Slowly we make our way to the front. The dull staccato of my heels carry me to him and when he places the wafer on my tongue, I see the yearning that he keeps so hidden. He smells like eucalyptus and worn leather. I fight the urge to lean into his gentle touch. I told myself today would be the last time, but even I know better than that. I will go to him and torture myself for the rest of week, knowing that I am powerless to stop the sin that consumes me. Father Ryan holds me close in a single glance. I make my way back to my seat. Within minutes, we will be alone. I worship a man who cannot leave his first love. When forced to choose between me and God, I will never win. But I continue to hope that one day what shackles us both to this pile of wood and glass will eventually free us. That one day he sees beyond the collar that tethers him. Instead of returning to my seat, I slip out of the pew and wait for Mass to conclude. When the last patron has left, I return to the chapel and straight into Ryan’s waiting arms.




Author Bio: Hope Parker is a writer of contemporary romance full-length novels and short stories. Parker has an MFA in Creative Writing from Southern New Hampshire University and currently lives in Tennessee on a hobby farm with her husband and son.


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We’ve Never Had Water Here Anyway


Written by Kimberly Ray


‘Neath the blistering heat, California poppies cast

themselves to the hillside sun as wayward children


start to lose their breath, as you now fight for yours,

running to chase the summer blues away.


The young and old all begin to fail; heatwaves

take the lungs as we suffocate one by one.


Down the road coffins align with fresh roses. Their leaves

trimmed and watered to only wither away, with the water we all craved.




Author Bio: Kimberly Ray is an author/poet, whose poetry often explores the highs and lows of relationships, love, loss, and grief. Ray has published a poetry series, Coffee Shop Sessions, and has work forthcoming in Teen Belle Magazine and 3 Moon Magazine. Currently, Ray is working on her third poetry collection.


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In Rotation


Written by Zach Murphy


Aria caught the city bus as the sky donned a pinkish glow before the day’s final gasp. Her daughter Millie sat on her lap, gripping her wrinkled hospital scrubs — the ones with the cat patterns on them. Millie had entered that age where she often asked all the difficult questions of the universe. Are the sun and the moon friends or enemies? Do aliens go to the bathroom? Why do other kids have a dad, but I don’t? 


Ding! 


“Here’s our stop,” Aria said. 


After dropping Millie off at grandma’s house, Aria hopped back on the bus and waited for it to bring her to work. She gazed out the window and sighed. The city was winding down while she was just beginning her 12-hour shift. The bags under her eyes carried enough stories to tell to the stars. Sleep was just an elusive dream at that point. 


Ding!


As Aria exited the bus, she dashed past a group of five nurses who were relishing a smoke break. Aria always wondered why her fellow healthcare workers would pollute their pink lungs, but she wasn’t hellbent on judging. Stress is a pervasive beast. Paranoia is a sneaky shadow that never leaves you alone. Uncertainty makes your mind spin in circles. 


The moment Aria strapped on her mask and walked through the hospital’s sliding doors, all she could think about was how she couldn’t wait to pick up Millie in the morning, then go home and change. In fact, she had a feeling that a lot of things were about to change. And that’s when she had to ask herself her own difficult question: Will tonight be the night?





Author Bio: Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Ghost City Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk Fiction, Flora Fiction, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Lotus-eater, Crêpe & Penn, WINK, Levitate, Drunk Monkeys, Door Is A Jar, and Yellow Medicine Review. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.


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#RAVEN #ClayLiterary #poetry #flashfiction #shortstory #ZachMurphy #KimberlyRay #HopeParker #SerenaPiccoli #TuckerLieberman #JakkyBankongObi










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