IHLR newsflash


#IHLRNewsFlash features brief responses--flash fiction, flash nonfiction, and flash poetry--to the most urgent current happenings in America and the world. If you wish to submit to NewsFlash, read more about doing so here.




incendiary devices

Emma Bolden

A bomb has a signature, & so does the man

who makes the bomb & so does the man whose

hands hold the bomb, move the bomb, unseal

the envelope untape the package unclose

the box catch the fire a bomb catches as

its message as a god. Somewhere a man falls

to his knees to ask a secret of his god &

somewhere a man is waking, tasting

coffee slipper-footed somewhere a man is

walking to the door he’s opened so many

times his hands have worn the gold off

of the knob & so it doesn’t reflect the image of

himself as he sets his coffee on the stair before

stepping with one foot forward to lift the package

addressed in a hand he almost knows he’s never

seen before. Somewhere a street shivers a wire

touches a wire & tells it to be a god & a man falls

to his knees to find his god is still

a secret, the morning lifts itself, the buildings

with their walls & windows rise & rise &

fall into soot, somewhere is there a god with

the gold rubbed off of him watching but not

reflecting the image of a man who steps with

one foot forward into the absence he will enter

as though it is an answer, as though it is his name.

Emma Bolden is the author of four chapbooks and three full-length collections of poetry: House Is An Enigma (Southeast Missouri State UP), medi(t)ations (Noctuary Press), and Maleficae (GenPop Books). She has received an NEA Fellowship, the Barthelme Prize from Gulf Coast, and the Spoon River Poetry Review Editor’s Prize winner. Her work has appeared in The Best American Poetry, The Best Small Fictions, and Poetry Daily, as well as such journals as the Mississippi Review, The Rumpus, StoryQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, New Madrid, TriQuarterly, Conduit, Indiana Review, Shenandoah, Greensboro Review, Feminist Studies, Monkeybicycle, The Journal, The Pinch, and Guernica. She currently serves as Associate Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Quarterly.




the fourth generation of migrating butterflies

John Brantingham

     It takes four generations for monarch butterflies to complete their migration from Mexico through the United States and back again, the fourth generation coming south to survive the winter, flying sometimes near the ground to find a roost, but sometimes up seven, eight, nine thousand feet to catch the breeze where it can do the work. Today they are flying right over the Five freeway past San Diego to the border, where Billy, a border patrol agent, participates in the banal task of processing people he will never see, never know, conscripted somehow into a war he never had an interest in. Billy, who wanted to be an artist. Billy, who has no hatred for the enemy in this war. 

     The breeze that carries the monarchs carried their forebears over the oblivious heads of John Fremont and his men as they fought their little war in 1846. Fremont, who would not take unarmed people prisoners, choosing to execute them instead. Fremont, who planted an American flag in the Rocky Mountains somewhere and made the West the property of the United States. 

     The breeze today pulls the monarchs over the gray wolf stalking a pocket mouse that’s hiding in a San Diego thornmint—this gray wolf who does not know about the wall that is going to make her and her species extinct, as it will do to the pocket mouse, as it will do to the San Diego thornmint, as it will do to the Mexican flannelbush, the Yaqui chub, the fountain darter, the ocelot, the Texas hornshell, and eighty-five other species we know of and 112 species no one has yet discovered. 

     It pulls the monarchs over Felix, whose wife will have a baby next month in El Centro, California, and so he has been thrust into this war against Billy, whom he does not know, whom he would love like a brother if they ever met, bonding over baseball and family and art. Both have the souls of painters, but neither have been able to find the time, caught up in the complex chores of survival. In another, more beautiful universe, they are colleagues who work together on murals on the walls of buildings in their towns. 

     The monarchs eventually come to roost in Mexico to create the next generation of butterflies, the generation that will begin a new migration. Those yet uncreated butterflies will awaken to a world essentially different from the world of their parents. It will be a harder world, more barren. It will be a world where Billy has grown to hate those he fights because he is confronted every day with the humiliating task of saying no, and he turns that frustration toward its easiest target. He will stand in his backyard and curse them, unaware that Felix, who has never seen his baby and probably won’t for years, curses him back.

John Bratingham is the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, and his work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and in Writer’s Almanac and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has eight books of poetry and fiction including The Green of Sunset from Moon Tide Press, and he teaches at Mt. San Antonio College. 




meditations on shockwaves

at the edge of space

(with excerpts from the Kavanaugh hearings)

Shelley Puhak

                                    Would it be fair to say

one thing is like another? Like the ions forced to relive

the old bombing campaigns, over and over, in our upper atmostphere--

            Hanover, Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden

                                               haunted me episodically

Dresden china is hard-paste porcelain,

            rock and clay

            fired at very high temperature

                                                seared into my memory

Dresden reduced to

            rock and clay

            4,000 tons of explosives fired at very high velocity

                                      Would it be fair to say

there are many means of measure--of heat, velocity, testimony, rage?

                                      Would it be fair to say

that we have all sorts of things we can compare?

some traumatized ions 600 miles up;

one woman up in front of 11 million viewers and

11 white men

                                                  the target of constant harassment


                                       Would it be fair to say

one thing is like another, one can illuminate the other?


For example, before the shockwaves--the bombers dropped 

              magnesium flares first, to illuminate

the cities, to give the men a target at which to aim.      

Shelley Puhak is the author of two books of poetry, the more recent of which, Guinevere in Baltimore, was selected by Charles Simic for the Anthony Hecht Prize. Her poems have recently appeared in Cincinnati Review, The North American Review, The Rumpus, and Waxwing. Her essays have recently appeared in The Atlantic, The Iowa Review, and Salon, as well as Best American Travel Writing 2017.




bounty of the free world

Lea Graham

My mother calls him P-Murt                       

because she says she refuses to say

his name again, his name, she says,

a name she hears which feels here all the time

seems in the air, in her ear, she says,

everywhere and so renames him in

reverse: A tic, soft con or kid’s trick (like

when we used to fall for spelling

g-i-p backwards every time) turns him

like a clock—widdershinning that 5th

Avenue tower, undoing the spell

of time and place and lack, retracts

name’s power. My mother names him armless,

superfluous, a swagger-less rapper,

whose rhymes are brands, whose brands are witless

innuendo, a nip, a flash, the status

quo: E-Z Mart, QuikTrip, Kum & Go’s

hot dogs sweating under heat lamps, bacon

air deodorizers, penny pools

and platitudes on plaques, on koozies

or caps: Keep Calm and Carry On;

I don’t get drunk, I get awesome;

a mechanical catfish singing

above the register: buh-buh-buh-bad to the bone

Lea Graham is the author of the forthcoming book of poetry, From the Hotel Vernon (Salmon Poetry Press, 2019); the chapbooks, Spell to Spell (above/ground Press, 2018); This End of the World: Notes to Robert Kroetsch (Apt. 9 Press, 2016); and her first book, Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You (No Tell Books, 2011). Her poems, translations, and reviews have been published in or are forthcoming in 3Elements Review, Crab Creek Review, Bateau, Poor Yorick, and Southern Humanities Review. I am an Associate Professor of English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and am a native of Northwest Arkansas.