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Mother Warns Us of Men

Story by Shareen K. Murayama (Read author interview) September 19, 2022

@SmokeLong

Like the sun, Father disappears every day after work, after drinking too much awamori. He hurricanes other spirits with spirits. He once twisted the necks of two half-eyed kittens, so leafy their bones—but what do we know of love, of fish thrashing on shore? I, too, am afraid to wake up in foreign spaces.

To save our necks, Mother teaches us to walk with our whole face down. My sisters and I forget that we carry the same ears. We are waiting, like fishing poles, for something. Mother calls it saving face, but will it hurt, we ask, imagining our heads paraded for other families to approve, to wed. We are waiting to use our faces.

When Yuta comes over, she armors Father’s body with songs of victory. Warrior or demon, we are not sure which one is Father, so in our dreams we offer him our faces as shields, even though they are meaty, like the underside of peaches. Father dislikes peaches. In our dreams, Father loses our love; he loses his face. Every fall, we pool the fallen leaves, dried like kittens. We raise our heads and jump into battle.

When Father comes home through the sickness, Mother greets him with her whole face down.

Winner in the micro competition of A SmokeLong Summer

About the Author

Shareen K. Murayama is a Japanese American, Okinawan American poet and educator. Her first poetry collection, Housebreak, debuted July 2022 by Bad Betty Press. Her first poetry chapbook, Hey Girl, Are You in the Experimental Group? by Harbor Editions was released in April 2022. She’s a 2021 Best Microfiction winner, a poetry reader for The Adroit Journal and Cobra Milk Mag, and Asst. CNF Editor for JMWW. Her works have been published or forthcoming in No Tokens Journal, SmokeLong QuarterlyThe Ilanot Review, RHINO Poetry, McNeese Review, Pilgrimage Press, Bamboo Ridge Press and elsewhere. You can find her on IG and Twitter @ambusypoeming.

This story appeared in A SmokeLong Summer 2022 — Special Issue of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly A SmokeLong Summer 2022 — Special Issue
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The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

Deadline November 15!

The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction (The Smokey) is a biennial competition that celebrates and compensates excellence in flash. The grand prize winner of The Smokey is automatically nominated for The Best Small Fictions, The Pushcart, Best of the Net, and any other prize we deem appropriate. In addition to all this love, we will also pay the grand prize winner $2500. Second place: $1000. Third place $500. Finalists: $100. All finalists and placers will be published in the special competition issue in December 2022.