Tag Archives: Fall 2023

Laundry by Charlie Brice

Photo of woman hanging colorful blankets drier

Fat Auntie Ursal with her coffee-breath, baggy pink house dress, and worried rosary beads would haul a basket of linen to the backyard, pick clothespins out of her mouth, and staple sheets to the line. When it rained, I rushed to watch Auntie panic-waddle into our backyard, eyes wide, rosary flying, as she pulled down the pristine sheets as if lowering the mainsail in a gale. Later, she’d plead with Uncle Pete to buy a dryer, but he couldn’t hear her over the sound he made while sucking food bits out of the crevasses between … Continue reading Laundry by Charlie Brice

God by Mel Kenne


God must be, I dare now to say, like a cat, with His / Her / Its impertinence and delays in ordering our lives, loves and ways of being whoever we think we are, or might be. I’ve learned this from my own clever pet, Kestane, who is happily (I suppose) grooming herself as she lies curled up in the wicker chair across from where I sit in my rocker, having my penultimate drink of the evening and trying again to understand what drives us in our conceptions of divinity. She’s not, or, perhaps, she … Continue reading God by Mel Kenne

The Bus Was Late: a Stamford Memory by Jeffrey Coughter

Photo of five school buses side by side

Jeffrey Coughter has earned an Honorable Mention in Streetlight’s 2023 Essay/Memoir Contest   On a sunny, breezy late October morning in 1959, I was among a handful of kindergartners waiting for a school bus near the front stoop of Boucher’s, a restaurant at the corner of Long Ridge Road and Stark Place in Stamford, Conn. The bus was late, but we didn’t know how late. We were all five, or nearly five years old, and “time,” when you’re five is not quite the same as when you’re sixty-five. We waited that crisp, autumn morning, as … Continue reading The Bus Was Late: a Stamford Memory by Jeffrey Coughter

Waterfall by Jo Riglar

Photo of waterfall with rainbow through it

  Jo Riglar is the 3rd place winner of Streetlight‘s Flash Fiction Contest I reached the waterfall as the rain started. Little vicious drops. A breeze bothered the trees. An angry dog in the distance. I rested on a flat rock, no moss, but cold and damp under my thighs. A summer sun was thwarted in its mission by the grey of the clouds. When I was a child I used to chase clouds, sat in a light chair and raising my face in worship. I remembered that now. It was a hopeless enterprise. ‘Nice day … Continue reading Waterfall by Jo Riglar

17 Year Cicada by David B. Prather

translucent green wing

  —Magicicada septendecim I never thought I could love you, arguing with leaves under midday sun, your body a prune with polymer wings that look like they might shatter at a touch. When my father told my mother he was in love with another woman, everything breakable flew off shelves, shook loose from frames, fell free from cupboards. I was breathless, my lungs heavy with humidity, a death rattle shaking in my throat, which reminds me of you, your song a pall through afternoon and on into evening. If only I’d known your name was … Continue reading 17 Year Cicada by David B. Prather

The Bridge of Sighs by Martha Wiseman

Martha Wiseman has earned an Honorable Mention in Streetlight’s 2023 Essay/Memoir Contest


My mother sighed. Frequently, variously, operatically. She was, after all, a singer, a dramatic soprano.I can barely sing. But I can sigh. All my life I’ve apparently been practicing my mother’s repertoire of sighs. A teacher once told me I sighed more than anyone she’d ever met. She never met my mother.


My mother sighed when faced with something she’d prefer not to do (and she preferred not to do a great many things). She sighed when I became, as she might say, obstreperous. She sighed when thinking of her own history. Some of the arias she practiced sounded like sighs to me.

Close up photo of frowning Lego woman with viking hat, long braided hair, and sword
Lego Opera Singer-not happy by Ted Drake. CC license.

Let me catalogue her repertoire. Some sighs began with deep, long inhalations, as if she were sucking in air, the exhalations like descending arpeggios, a soul sinking down. Some entailed a rapid series of brief inhales followed by an extended sequence of outpuffs. Some involved a slow intake of air leading up to a heart-rending moan of Oh, God. Late in the evening, as she settled herself in bed—perhaps with her copy of The Food of Italy—the sighs ranged from melodic to labored and stuttered, an unmistakable song cycle, a summary of another melancholy day, her version, I like to think, of vespers.


My mother adored things Italian. She’d lived in Italy, studying opera, the year before I was born. I don’t think she lived in Venice. But perhaps she visited that watery city and crossed the Bridge of Sighs. My mother’s name was Nell, but she preferred to be addressed as Nella.


I’ve read that these days, one can enter the Bridge of Sighs only as part of a tour, and only in summer. As the bridge is enclosed and its windows barred, visitors may become overheated and claustrophobic. One would, I suppose, if one were headed to the prison on one side of the bridge.

Ah! Sospiro!


My mother may at one time have been in love with a tall Italian man named Gernando. She referred to him as a friend. At some point, I realized I hadn’t heard her mention him in a long time. I asked about him. Her face clouded and she sighed almost angrily and said she never wanted to hear his name again. I could glean only that they’d planned to celebrate New Year’s Eve together and he did not show up and soon married—married someone else, I supposed she meant. My mother never forgave him.


I’ve never been to Italy. But if I ever go to Venice, perhaps I’ll walk on the Bridge of Sighs and heave a good sigh for my mother.


My mother, despite her Italian leanings, did not like Puccini. I find that I don’t much, either. She loved Mozart, as do I, and he was Austrian. The libretti for most of his operas, however, were in Italian. She found Beethoven too Germanic. But she sang Hugo Wolf, and she was partial to Richard Strauss.

After my mother died, I found a picture postcard of Venice’s iconic opera house, La Fenice, among the few mementos she’d kept.


I don’t think my mother knew that Byron’s “Childe Harold” (he just goes on and on, she might have said) is credited with making the bridge famous:

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs,
A palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand . . .

The legends attached to the Bridge of Sighs—that convicts crossing over from interrogation in the Doge’s Palace to their place of confinement sighed their last sigh of freedom on this bridge or sighed at their last view of the city; that lovers passing beneath the bridge were guaranteed a never-ending amore, their sighs of contentment breathed upward—are just that, legends, the one historically impossible, the other wishful.

Maybe my mother slid under the Bridge of Sighs in a gondola. Was she with anyone besides the gondolier? Her own wishful thinking—her longing for lasting love, for an operatic life—would have led her to sigh dramatically, trailing her hand through the polluted water.

When she lived in Italy, she was married to my father, but he was not with her. She said she came home because she wanted to have me before she was too old. That wish was fulfilled, at least. The lasting love vanished.

Photo of the bridge of sighs from the water
The Bridge of Sighs by helicon two (flickr.com). CC license.


I sigh. The sighs are my mother’s legacy. A bridge between us. Perhaps that is overly symbolic, but the metaphor seems fitting. Straightforward, which our relationship wasn’t.

Sometimes simplicity and straightforwardness are reassuring.


I hear myself taking a deep, almost gulping breath. I hear the rough, sorrowful exhalation that follows.

I hear my mother.

Martha G. Wiseman
Martha Graham Wiseman has been an acting student, a dancer, and an editor. She taught English at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., until retiring in 2020. Her essays have appeared in The Georgia Review, Fish Anthology 2021, Ponder Review, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, Under the Sun, The Santa Ana River Review, The Bookends Review, oranges journal (U.K.), Kestrel, and Map Literary; work is forthcoming from Queen’s Quarterly (Canada). She has also published fiction and poetry.

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In the Nature of Chickens, There is Little Room for Gentleness by Emma Fenton

Two chickens, blue building, overgrown chickenyard, rustic look

On Thursday, there are three chickens in the backyard pecking at each other, plucked feathers scattered on the ground like a gruesome crime scene. You could make a fourth chicken out of this, I think and rescue the yellow one with a bleeding wing. She scrambles in my arms, talons clawing at exposed flesh. I drop her. She returns to pecking, happier in the violence which is more comfortable to her than in my arms: safe but unknown. I do not know how to save them if they do not want to be saved, only … Continue reading In the Nature of Chickens, There is Little Room for Gentleness by Emma Fenton

grown girl: she thinks of the dead by Liz Femi

Photo of alley between brick buildings with graffiti

it surely is the same wrinkled sky from years ago when i lived in dense forest towns when cold winds chafed Iroko bark like prayers chafe fingers. i smoothed my first grinding stone with rocks rocks picked from streets maddened from stoning thieves. i peered down wells and called to the nameless to find out for myself: guards of the wide road where mothers have gone mad where faint rhymes tuck into palms, love poems in vapors, breastmilk curdles with ghosts, and from mounds poured for the forgotten, i walked, anyhow, anyhow myself Liz Femi … Continue reading grown girl: she thinks of the dead by Liz Femi

Unzipped by Sheri Reynolds

Black and white photo of nude woman bent over

  Sheri Reynolds is the 2nd place winner of Streetlight‘s Flash Fiction Contest The garbage disposal made a horrible racket, a gritty, grinding, clonking commotion. Avocado pit, she thought, and reached for the off-switch just as a knife flew up from the sink’s black hole. It was a paring knife, the one with the slender purple handle, silver blade so thin and sharp that the gleam still shined in her eye as it hit her throat, bull’s eye, like her throat had been its one true target. She’d been making guacamole to take to book club … Continue reading Unzipped by Sheri Reynolds

Belleville Reformed Church by Josh Humphrey

Photo of church with sun behind it

And if you were that old collection of smudged walls and dusty glass, you would be embarrassed to be caught by                        the morning – stretched out fence to fence, your top half in scaffolds, cross in repair from the super storm, gravestones covered September leaves           in March, unprepared for the sun, bleary-eyed, pulled from that dream of the underground railroad – belly full of tunnels, tunnels full of                   bloody songs. And if you were a stone, you would miss the touch of … Continue reading Belleville Reformed Church by Josh Humphrey