I’ve been following, reading, and submitting to The Molotov Cocktail for years now. Today, the 2019 Shadow Award for the lit mag were announced; it’s the poetry side of their incendiary contests. I’ve always submitted to the flash fiction ones, with a hope of some day submitting to the poetry one. This time, I actually did. And it’s the first time I’ve had a “close but no cigar” shout-out. I feel pretty good about that. Here’s the full results.

And here’s my entry.

Gurgling on the sirens nobody heard,
I considered the red flags planted in the yard,
obscured by dead grass and weeds now.

Crumpled up beside the pill bottle was the last
note I tried to write. I started with,
“Isn’t this ridiculous to be writing
such a thing?”

I scratched that out, and figured starting
with a quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
about sorrows and sadness and coldness, but
then that felt high school essayist; Mr. Simmons
might have liked it.

Maybe he would have used it for his future classes,
“Yes, he’s dead, but gee whiz, he sure could write!”
That’s what they all said. 15 years ago.

My new line was to try to explain it. it,
with its two letters, held too much weight
Just i and t, and yet within that space
was the vastness of my undoing.

Explain how it reversed-engineered thousands
of years of biology and instinct. Use Times New Roman.
Size 12. Double space. One-inch margins.
Check for grammar and punctuation.
Due in two weeks.

What if it was a simple line of reassurance
like, “I love you,” or “I’m sorry,” or
“It’s not your fault.”

But the pen fell
short of death.

All did, and all

faded to



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