The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova


Review by g emil reutter

The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova begins with the short story Unstiching. Grudova lures the reader in with a line of normalcy, One afternoon, after finishing a cup of coffee in her living room, Greta discovered how to unstitch herself.  However, there is nothing normal in this collection of 13 short stories that stay with the reader long after finishing the book. There is a haunting darkness in all of the stories and a cast of characters set into miserable conditions. Characters transform in startling ways.  Grudova’s Waxy is a perfect example. It is a story set in the future or perhaps in the past. Women are subjected to training for factory work, supporting men, working jobs that scar them. They are used for money and sex, easily discarded. The value of human life is non-existent as babies are disposed of in casual and disrespectful ways. Everyone has to be registered with the government and if you leave your job or living arrangement they will track you down. A woman without a man is considered an outcast.

Throughout the stories the characters eat tinned food, have body disorders such as incontinence and anorexia. Most of the male characters have no loyalty abandoning family at will. The character, Paul, in the story, Mouse Queen, is such a fella. He is a philosopher of sorts and prior to his wife giving birth to twins, he takes off.  The wife abandoned turns into a wolf, raids local stores and once when returning home realized her babies were gone. Had Paul returned to take them or did the wolf eat them? There is a weirdness to each story, a surrealism that is haunting, grotesque.

The subject matter of this collection is thwarting yet Grudova writes surrealism well; in fact is a master of it. She has created a world no one would want to live in yet when one begins the book it is difficult to put down. It is not a book for the faint of heart for in its surrealism Grudova writes of the decay of society. I could not read the book straight through as I often do for after each story I had to ask myself: What just happened? It is a challenging read. Do you dare?

You can find the book here:


g emil reutter is a writer of poems and stories. You can find him here:About g emil reutter


A Boat Full of Seagulls: 10 Poems and Tangos – Translated from the Spanish by Stephen Page

Stephen Page phot with muse (1)

Stephen Page and Muse 


Poet Stephen Page recently had this collection published at National Translation Month. Here is the link to the pdf file :

2 Poems by Dongho Cha


Photograph by Diane Sahms-Guarnieri

The Girl
Bar the door! However, when he was hollering these
words, hurrying himself from pillar to post here, the
door was being opened half-widely. The girl moved
forward, inching towards the door, wondering why
she was looking outside, instead of inside, through
the door from here the place where she had been kept
all day long. It was like going through a damp and
dark cave, similar to the old underground chamber,
which had once been a shelter for her and her little
brother during the war. And in time, the girl’s oval
shaped fingertips, feeling the fresh air from outside,
almost arrived at the door. The door was yet unclosed,
but right before it there was a cement-block barrier,
half white and half yellow, touched and tapped by the
girl’s hands, bumped and sweated. The girl, at this
precise moment, was beginning to be dragged and
pulled backward, and her belly was banded and her
whole body was contracted when he irritated her on
the back of her neck with his stun gun. Why all this
happen to me now?, hollered the girl over the door.
The Refugee
Forced from home,
he was sent
to a rangy, narrow chamber.
On the very day
he was brought
here, the gas leaked
out of a crack
between hard yellowed brick
and soft dark red carpet.
No sound was
to be heard from within
the room, but
he heard really
a burring sound
that frightened and
repelled him. And
at that moment,
his head was blown off,
and arched into
the rear of the room, but
not high enough
to touch the ceiling.
It was going
deep into the corner,
while in fact
it was flying
out of the room.
What can I do
when this happens,
so frustrated
he said to himself.
The empty chamber
waits for the next person
who will take this
as his new home. You’d
never, never ever,
wish this to happen
to anyone, right?
Dongho Cha Head Shot
Dongho Cha, a PhD candidate in English at the University of Illinois, Chicago, is completing a dissertation entitled “The Useful Koreans: Labor and Ethnicity in Contemporary South Korean and Korean-American Literature.” He has written about Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Se-hui Cho, race & class dialectics, global capitalism, modernist poetics, world literature discourses, and other subjects for Modern Language Note, Philosophy and Literature and CLC: Dongho Cha | University of Illinois at Chicago –

2 Poems by John Timpane


hobos frieght hopping - library of congress

Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress

Elizabeth and the Tramps
The dandelions always grew, even in 1930;
They ran the fields to the fence where all the boards had fallen,
And if, arrayed in clothes and dirt, they cut across the grass lot
The tramps could beat the watchful men who lay for them with rifles.
If they could make her back door, they could beg for dimes and nickels,
A chicken wing, or three square yards on Grandma’s floor for sleeping.
Her yeses earned her word among the sons of the Depression
Who traipsed to her in random flocks and seldom lost her mercy,
Found succor for their freight car mouths, bandages for the broken,
A shoe that almost fit a foot, and small talk if they wanted.
Night, train time, called the tramps away. A couple stayed on longer
Then struck out aimless through the dandelions that grew always.


Bach’s Great Theme


is God arising from trouble. Beginnings welcome
you; a folk song you know
or wish you knew gives way
to hurdles, threats, twinges, changes wrung
out of memory (watery light box);
you climb walls of thorns to
reach the wasteland, sun in your
eyes; valleys fill with mist, milk,
carillons; lighthouses necklace the coast; the
drunken river of song urges backward;
bass and melody leapfrog; branches whip
across your face; mainspring time relaxes.
Does the Orchestral Suite No. 3
in D Major, second movement, move, or
do you? Moving to be living,
to know, to hear, bear this
chord, those scraps of theme around
corners like spies of the spirit?
Haunts, rehaunts. New fields render alien
the childhood path. Have you been
led? Or is being here, the end, wrung,reset
remapped, equal to hearing what you already


photograph by Jessica Griffin

John Timpane is the Books and Fine Arts Editor/Writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer and His work has appeared in Sequoia, The Fox Chase Review, Apiary, Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Review of Books, The Rathalla Review, Per Contra, Vocabula Review, and elsewhere. Among his books is a chapbook, Burning Bush (Judith Fitzgerald/Cranberry Tree, 2010).




Bikini Wax, an Inquiry Into Heteronormativity by Jeremy Freedman

j image

Image by Jeremy Freedman

 Bikini Wax, an Inquiry Into Heteronormativity
I got a hot bikini wax and on the first day I got fired
I marked myself safe and then I got fired
I made myself good and pretty for you but me
and my bikini wax were made redundant
I held up my end of the manly bargain
but now I’m off the end of the bed
and now I’m waxing off my remaining meds
I was a longtime pistolero but now I’m pissing up a rope
my wax was extracted and the rope was burned
either extracting and burning is a binary
either I do or I don’t or it’s not
either way I made myself pretty for you
I made myself pretty sore for you
and now I’m pretty sure I’m sore or I’m not
either I’m sore at you or I’m not
either I’m a native here or I’m foreign to these shores
maybe I’m a member of that lost tribe or I’m not
either I decide what I want or not want
either creating is deciding or procrastinating
or maybe it’s false to be in its thrall at all
either I do what I can or I can’t
either I’m on fire for you or I’m not
either you fired me or you didn’t
either wax burns or it doesn’t
either your skin when sleeping
has the texture of wax or it doesn’t
either I’m sleeping right now or I’m not
either my waning meds work or they won’t
either you think I’m pretty or I’m not
either I’m pretty in pink or I’m not in the pink
these are either bad decisions or useful habits
these either are beautiful facts or brutal fiction
fiction is just a lie that tells the truth
or it’s just a lie that lies there burning
this is either fiction or it’s not
either it’s a capital idea or it’s too much honest labor
either I’m an honest worker or I’m as honest as a liar
I’m the artist here so I won’t defend myself to you
maybe I like a good ass-whipping or maybe I don’t
maybe you’re the one to give it to me or maybe you won’t
either this date will stink in my calendar like rotten fish
in the refrigerator or else it will smell like your rose tattoo
either I’m a teenage fascist or I’m just skipping past the truth
maybe you like one fascist finger inside you or two at most
but not my whole fist please small though it is
I’m either horny as a frog or oily as an otter
maybe you’ll find me grease-streaked
and yellow like the cheese whiz
on top of a cheese steak on the griddle
or maybe I just forgot to sizzle
or maybe I’m as pretty as the dribble
coming from the corner of your mouth while you’re sleeping
I hear your voice either declaiming or complaining
either the burning bush is on fire or that’s not the voice
of the hostess with the mostess I hear
coming from the holiest of holies
calling me madman or calling me madam
telling me either I’m free at last at home free
and independent or else I’m undependable
or else I’m a dog in a dog-shaped doghouse
either I’m the belle of the ball or the beast with the least
maybe that’s the song I’m singing in high tenor
maybe if I were a bell I’d go ding dong dinging in terror
maybe I’m wearing a dress for success or maybe I’m not
either it’s my birthday suit or it’s not my dress
either I’ll grow into it or I’ll hide my ass in the hedges
either I’m hiding in the hedges or I’ll take a hiding
maybe the arc of the moral universe bends toward an ass-whipping
maybe the arc of the moral universe has the shape of my schlong
maybe life is bright and brief as the night is dark and long
maybe the Sicilian defense is no longer worth the candle
maybe Mt. Etna is on fire for you alone and blew
its top again too hot to handle without a glove
maybe there’s comfort in fear and comfort in love
either you’ll drink in the smoke or you’ll run for the hills
either your cities are buried in ash or they’re not
either it’s the ash of Ash Wednesday or it’s not
who can say why your forehead is dirty
I’m pretty sure that’s not a fingerprint I saw imprinted
I’m pretty sure it’s not Easter Monday or Maundy Thursday
either it will stay dirty or I’ll have to clean it up
either this a fork in the road and I’ll take it both ways
or maybe I’m unsighted that direction
or maybe the fat lady lost her tenor and forgot to sing
and this is the end of the bed
maybe I’ll wish upon my lucky star
either we’re lucky or we aren’t
either we stand on something evanescent as heaven
or we stand crotch deep in muck
if we’re lucky this is only the first circle of hell
and either we’re fucked or we’re not it’s too dark to tell
Jeremy Freedman is a writer and artist living in New York City. His poems have been published in 2 Bridges Review, Pioneertown, Queen Mob’s, Cleaver, The Missing Slate, and elsewhere. His chapbook “Apophenia” is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. His photographs have been exhibited in Europe and the United States and have been featured in numerous journals. More work can be seen at

Revelstoke Mountain, 5am by Julia Wakefield

Revelstoke Mountain, 5am
The valley holds its breath
no birdsong cuts the deep indigo
of conifer forests
one peak’s snow patches begin to blush
its neighbour waits, a grey silhouette
for its gilding
at last the harsh crow’s croak
breaks the spell
heralds the rumble and screeching of the 5.30 train
as it rattles the bridge and snakes over
the valley floor
in the cherry tree
the banshee twitter of a squirrel
hurls bold threats
at tiny birds
pine scent mingles with new-mown grass
pearls from last night’s rain
cling to every grass blade
beyond the tree line, bald eagles climb thermals
as the sun marches over
the mountain’s edge
clouds muster and retreat from the lowland hollows
linger in packs, throwing shadows to trap
woodlands and rock faces
the mountain is a moving picture
its flanks morph from cliffs to chasms;
where there was one peak
now there are two
here a clear track;
now there is none.
The day grows old
mountains flood the valley with shadows
swallow the sun
spray stars across the sky
toss the moon from peak to peak.

Photograph by Martin Christmas

Julia Wakefield has spent most of her life working as a visual artist, specialising in illustration and printmaking.  Since arriving in Adelaide in 2001 Julia has focused on poetry and spoken word, and her poems have been published in several Friendly Street Poets anthologies as well as in poetry journals Page Seventeen and Rabbit Poetry. She won second prize in WA’s Trudy Graham Literary Award for Poetry in 2010, and was highly commended in Friendly Street Poets’ Satura Prize in 2016.  She has a special interest in Japanese forms and she is an active member of the Adelaide-based Bindii Japanese Poetry Forms group.  Julia Wakefield