Mad Hatters' Review

Flash Fiction by Randall Brown

Posted on February 29, 2012

And So It Will Just Be the Two of Us

My sister and I are racing the condiments . Come on—catch-up. Wait—I must-turd. I don't relish the thought of that. We are being given the silent treatment because yesterday we burnt down some evergreens using undergrowth and a magnifying glass. Do you understand now, my father had asked before going quiet, how fire can get away? He stands at the grill, recooking the chicken; he never knows when things are done. My mother has a skin disorder that makes red welts appear wherever she puts pressure. That's how she taught me the alphabet, my writing each letter with a chopstick on the underside of her forearm, waiting for the letters to arise, scarlet. Tonight she shows me her arm, “Ice”—and I go inside.

In the window frame, there they all are. My sister in the burnt out grove trying to keep the hula hoop alive, my father turning the chicken over and over, and my mother pouring from a silver flask into her Fresca.

I often think of that fire, how quickly it got out of our hands. Power. It had something to do with that, wanting the feeling that we could affect the way things were.

It is my mom who turns to see me in the window. My sister will end up dead in high school, driving stoned; my father will join a far-off cult in the Adirondacks and, during an astral projection lesson, he will never return to his body.

My mother holds up her other arm. Hurry .

Randall Brown teaches at and directs Rosemont College 's MFA in Creative Writing Program. He has been published widely, both online and in print, and blogs regularly at FlashFiction.Net . He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts .


Poem by Carol Novack

Posted on February 20, 2012

Teachings of Death


affirmation sticks to me
like a porcupine's quill

the dumb animal death—instinctively
a woman who has lain with pigs
keeps me going

where lions hunt
silent in the bog


that wizened woman who has lain with goats
opens doors
that had been breathing

under closed lids

I watch her aghast
the air smelling briefly of love
breezes by humming
an old French song

the voice of the woman
has been extinguished
by its own extravagance
has been taken in
by wind
which makes gutteral sounds

my body
so surprised by the opening
of doors


she speaks of that man
as if he were holy

her voice of bodies
closely woven
as knots of paradise

she wags her wand
& takes me back
to his shadow

as light deceives
it seems the shade
of a mountain
cast from her wand

‘climb' she says
lifting her breasts

death's tongue
flies away
wavering its notes
high above
the mountain

& i am alone
all sinew & bone
wrapped in the flesh
of his shadow


March 19 would have been Carol's 63rd birthday. She missed it by just over two months.

This poem was first published in Carol's chapbook, Living Alone without a Dictionary , in 1974 (Gargoyle Poets 11, Makar Press, Queenland University , Australia ).

Be sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming issue of Mad Hatters' Review (Issue 13), where many of Carol's works will be featured.


3 Responses to Poem by Carol Novack

•  Marcus Speh says:

February 21, 2012 at 9:33 am

This is an outstanding poem, thank you for posting it. Looking forward to the MHR issue. This has been a good funeral service. Thanks.


•  lucinda kempe says:

March 12, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Absolutely beautiful. “She speaks of that man as if he were holy” says so much.

Thank you for posting this elegiac piece.


•  Ann Bogle says:

June 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Sorry to correct you: Carol's birthday was in fact February 19, an Aquarius. I am so glad we will have her early poems, reissued. She was clearly so talented from the beginning and recognized for it, too, during her years in Australia .


Tribute poem by Lee Ann Brown

Posted on February 8, 2012

Acoustic winter

—for Carol

If the year ends a plural spiral
Make it be so what a year is
If the winter begins again here
In the longest darkest place
Of the shortest bluest day
We play the stillness deep
Into the night song beside
All our sleeping family breath

Of the five friends I am holding
Who will last the winter
In their earthly spiral
In their spring trajectory
Move to lovely summer
One more lovely summer
Or further time to foil
Days whirl into nights

I move to see my parents
The ones who have born
Me out have born me up
I move to be with my sister
And her local love her ones
I move to join the circle
I am already in my kith

Acoustic winter sings a summer
A way to stay awake as the light
Brings back its basket its halo
Its wreath of line and berries
Pine hurries to the wind again
Night is here at its most clear
Sound across the zones a weave
I sing this song again for winter

May Venus never sever
Her move across the sun
To come upon the next
Transit the next music
In time to finger to find
The new way to unwind
Skeins of sound in mind

— love Lee Ann

Winter Solstice 2011

Lee Ann Brown is Assistant Professor of English at St. John's University in New York City . A poet and filmmaker whose first book, Polyverse (Sun&Moon, 1999), won the New American Poetry Series Award. Her second book, The Sleep That Changed Everything, appeared in 2003 from Wesleyan. She is also the founder and editor of the small press Tender Buttons.


Tribute poem by Gene Tanta

Posted on February 7, 2012

Elegy for Carol Novack, 1948-2011

Farewell Carol. If death is a journey take it at a local

pace. Don't hurry if no road presents the way. If no road presents the

way beneath your feet, let the narrative fail where it fails. Let the

narrative waft to a treble let it. If you hear a crackle of burning in

the forest of tokens walk around it and sigh at the apocalypse. If

this is the sweet spot of the poem this is the sweet spot of the poem.

If I thank you for showing us how to walk around with a broken shotgun

draped over a forearm I thank you. If art never offended you with the

music of being alone after the wild darkness settles on the cobbled

town center it never offended you. If you knew deep in your funny bone

that clarity should be avoided if possible you knew it. If you knew

that closure should be avoided if possible you knew that too.

Gene Tanta was born in Timisoara, Romania and lived there until 1984, when his family immigrated to the United States . Since then, he has lived in DeKalb , Iowa City, New York , Oaxaca City, Iasi , Milwaukee , and Chicago . He is a poet, visual artist, and translator of contemporary Romanian poetry. His two poetry books are Unusual Woods and Pastoral Emergency .

His poems, translations, and artwork work may be found in journals such as: EPOCH, Ploughshares, Circumference Magazine, Cream City Review, Exquisite Corpse, Watchword, Columbia Poetry Review, The Laurel Review , and Drunken Boat .

Gene is Arts Director of Mad Hatters' Review .


One Response to Tribute poem by Gene Tanta

•  Alison Ross says:

February 8, 2012 at 7:01 pm

My new favorite poem. Just exquisite.


Tribute poem by Leonie Blair

Posted on February 4, 2012

Just a Handful of My Very Treasured Memories of Carol

Glebe, Sydney , Australia February, 1977
Fantasized drinking ouzo on a verandah in Greece
While the sun fell into the ocean

Molyvos , Greece , October to December 1977
Interviewed prospective landlords in the local cafeneon
over ouzo, feta and olives
Bargained hard for winter rent the best house in the village

Danced the Syrtaki and Tsifteteli, in public
And a forbidden males-only Greek dance too

Happily shared the secrets of Jewish Chicken Soup

Had a policy: “you eat, you wash up”
Greek men: No exceptions
Never minded the kitchen floor awash

Co-wrote the Traveller's Hellenican Dictionary
Called it Musika in Yr Moussaka

London , England , February 1978
Faithfully attended her travelling companion in Earl's Court
Didn't catch the German Measles

New York City , December 1980
Taught us how to say 13th Street in American
for the benefit of taxi drivers.

Glebe, Sydney , Australia , August 1999
Fried swordfish for breakfast while dancing the tango
Didn't notice our dog sitting in her suitcase

New York City , September 11, 2001
Laughed. Didn't Write. But observed
“We are breathing in the ashes of dead people”

Leonie Blair
Gold Coast ,


2 Responses to Tribute poem by Leonie Blair

•  Pingback: Carol Novack – A life remembered. Tributes from John Jenkins and Rae Desmond Jones | Rochford Street Review

•  Stefanie Bennett says:

April 15, 2012 at 4:16 am


Those were the times, Nigel.
Bohemia at its god-forsaken best.
Chinese tea and gin chasers
Down by the quay. We put the world
To order with a chant and buddhist-bell.

Those were the days. Sundays stoked
With Robert wanting realism and surrealism
All at once. And us, swallowing the lot
In the shallow rooms off Forsyth Street where
Dylan was king and Baez his queen

We'd perfected the art of buffoonery.
Pete had an almost perfect
Love affair with a third-hand printing press.
Carol spoke of dropping-in on Lesbos, while
Vicki made Nepal her marked Nirvana.

Was it enough? To play at being Toughs?
The sacrificial years swept us down and under
A carpet of tutelary exempt tomorrows.
You became a lay-preacher. The others…
I couldn't hazard a guess. And I? I go on

Marking time. Occasionally word-knitting
A new bullet-proof vest.


Tribute poem by Larry Buttrose

Posted on February 2, 2012

The Last Day of the Year

in memoriam Carol Novack and Kerry Leves

“he told me that writing poetry was the most beautiful thing anyone could do on this godforsaken earth”

—Roberto Bolano

The writing of a poem
Is problematical
As life itself:
Where did it come from?
Why is it here?
What does it mean?
Then it settles itself
Into ink, infused
Into the fibers of a page,
Signifying much, little
Or nothing much at all,
Or otherwise shimmering
Pixels on a screen,
In the e-tombstones
Of two dead poets,
Our friends, who wrote
Beautifully for reasons
Beautifully unclear,
Now departed to compose
In places we the living
Know not where.

Larry Buttrose is an Australian writer. He is the author of the novels The Maze of the Muse and Sweet Sentence , and the travel books The King Neptune Day & Night Club , and Cafe Royale (also published as The Blue Man ). For the stage he has written Kurtz , his stage adaptation of Heart of Darkness , and a stage adaptation of Don Quixote , as well as co-writing the hit musical Hot Shoe Shuffle . Larry's first book of poetry, One Steps Across the Rainbow , was published in 1974.


3 tribute poems by Robert Vaughan

Posted on February 1, 2012

— for Carol Novack

I Really Don't Know Clouds At All

When the conversation evaporates, perhaps it's like the clouds vanishing before the
dominance of the sun. When words fail, stay. Have the awkward courage to stay, my
love, and wait for words or an act, or the arrival of an enormous butterfly.


Flying From The Empty Nest

I have discovered
that I can fly:
waking, missing,
embarking, sacrificing,
obviously we are morons. Send love.

It's a challenge
not to hit a tree limb

Do write.

Meet, receive,
rent, return
I have discovered that
although I am not a
one-winged creature
I can fly.


Circle of Dance

The smoke where we dance does not fade.

I see the roaming circle where we navigated our identities.
The dance has hands that reach into us like hunger. Where did you go after we burst
against each other?

I hear waterfalls, taste saffron, touch elephants. This is how you left me, as night crashes
down and the never heard song begins to play.

Robert Vaughan lives in Milwaukee where he leads writing roundtables at Redbird- Redoak Writing. His prose and poetry is found in numerous literary journals such as Elimae, Metazen, Necessary Fiction and BlazeVOX . His short stories are anthologized in Nouns of Assemblage from Housefire , and Stripped from P.S. Books. He is a fiction editor at JMWW magazine, and Thunderclap! Press. He co-hosts Flash Fiction Fridays for WUWM's Lake Effect. Click here for Robert's blog.


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