Winter Issue 2019

1. I have begun listening to music again, needing something sweet in a hard world. I have been pleasantly surprised going from one Tiny Desk Concert to another. It’s a kind of shock to feel certain things again, to remember how much you used to feel, to realize how long you’ve gone without feeling. There are people who listen to music all the time, and there are people who don’t listen to music at all, and there are people who listen to music but are unaffected, and all these people are supposed to exist in the world and understand each other.

2. Go back far enough and every unhappy couple is a happy couple—even your parents. Time is moving and time is stuck. Replicated endlessly, they wonder how they got here, in the kitchen (it’s always the kitchen) after a fight. In dreams, too, you appear in a place without knowing how you got there.

3. You can get so tired, sometimes, you feel like you’ve already returned to the dust, except that it’s mud. It rained last night, you see, and the earth could not drink it all. There’s a vehicle parked down the street called the Mud Truck that serves coffee. You’re made of mud, you think, so might as well put more of it in you.

4. You’ve already seen so many people for the last time. Now and then you see someone you thought you would never see again. The effect is like listening to music.

5. The arc of the moral universe may bend toward justice, but how many lives does it take to bend it? There was a guy, Paco, who worked on the line at a bar & grill restaurant where I bartended on the weekends. He was a funny guy. His jokes helped keep the energy up during long late-night shifts. Some of the waitresses liked him. Nobody knew how old he was, but he said he couldn’t remember a time when he wasn’t grown. He had no father but such a large family that he never felt like he’d missed out on anything. He complained often about his gay brother, not because he was gay but because he “mooched too much.” He had worked dozens of jobs in his life, many much worse than his current one. He was acquainted with several cats, and they came to him behind the restaurant, even when he had nothing for them to eat. One night, waiting for the train home, he flicked a cigarette butt on the platform. He was a litterer, in other words. Someone saw him littering, and he got cited for it. Sometime later, he didn’t show up for work, and they had to hire another line cook.

~Bram Shay, Editor


The Maiden with the Rose on Her Forehead by Marc Frazier

The Crossing by Lynn Hoggard

Postcards to Budapest by David Koenig

Candle Making by Richard Weaver


Brady Wants to Get Shot by Ron Riekki

Summer After Summer by Ewa Mazierska

Creative Nonfiction

Henri Rochemont by Joseph E. Fleckenstein

Continue reading “Winter Issue 2019”

Winter/Spring Issue 2018

A combined Winter/Spring issue is apt for the unseasonably cold weather we—and many of our readers—are experiencing. It’s been a year since our last issue, and more than a few people have been asking if we, like spring, would ever be seen again.

First of all, we’re flattered that our absence registered at all in these turbulent times. There are so many platforms seeking to push words at us—too many virulent and divisive—that a WordPress literary journal feels almost quaint, like a hornbook seen at a museum. I thought a lot about platform as I assembled this issue: WordPress feels clunkier every time I use it—which, admittedly, hasn’t been much. Every issue, I feel that Gloom Cupboard deserves better. The same goes for Facebook: we all deserve better.

I’ve known it for awhile. But in deference to the demands of work and life and serving others, I’ve allowed things to slide by the way they’ve always been.

Inertia, as I used to tell one of the biggest enablers I’ve ever met, is a choice. Not a good one, but it’s a course of action. And in a world (cue cinematic voice-over) where people produce content—some of it lovely and necessary—and others fight to be featured in it (that’s us, writers), who’s the audience? Who’s listening? Who’s not? What should we choose to reject inertia? (Responses welcome).

~T.M De Vos, Editor

Continue reading “Winter/Spring Issue 2018”

Winter Issue 2017

Build yourself a time capsule. Fill it up with the excess portion of your disappointment and disgust. Stuff it with the nausea induced by their unending, towering lies. Pour in the words you need to remember. You will need these things later, and you will be glad to have them close at hand. They will be buried there, right there, not two inches down. In the meantime, you will need to be strange and find strange ways to fight. Those who can will resist, and those who can’t will persist.

When the time comes—in eight months, in two years, in four years—your capsule will be ready to be unearthed. When you pry it open, you’ll find that the things that you saved have intermingled and coalesced. They have become a monster, a golem at your command. You will unleash it, and it will drag you uphill. You will look down at where you languished, and then, then you will not fail to act.

~Bram Shay, Editor

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A Speech Imperfectly Her Own: Camille Rankine’s Incorrect Merciful Impulses

Let’s say the lyric poet, among many definitions, is also a kind of translator, at least that she faces a similar challenge: the task of rendering in one tongue some experience beforehand first articulated, first heard, in another. But where the translator pivots between at least two culturally recognized languages, the lyric poet moves no less complexly between, say, interior and exterior idioms, between the image and the imagination, or between the just-at-first private articulations of her intellectual and emotional self, for which no perfect language exists, and into this thing called “English,” called “grammar,” or a “poem.” Who knows? Though we do know that any such crossings as I’ve described must probably reveal, unless we labor not to see it, the gaps between, the imprecisions, the failures and silences, and thus also makes apparent the very real difficulty involved in such a project. The trick, though, is to make that difficulty sing. I’d say Camille Rankine, in Incorrect Merciful Impulses, her debut collection, sings the point succinctly and, for that, most profoundly when she writes: “I am trying to tell you / something but my mouth / won’t move” (from “On the Motion of Animals”).Continue reading “A Speech Imperfectly Her Own: Camille Rankine’s Incorrect Merciful Impulses”

Summer Issue 2016

Blessed Reposed image
Blessed Reposed by Douglas G. Campbell


The Cupboard is not where we store our politics (though you could probably infer where we stand after a relatively superficial skim), so I’m not referring to the U.S. presidential race when I say that it’s been a difficult summer. Some people are safer than ever, golden parachutes and all; others are living through violence that would not be out of place in the medieval era. If there’s a bright spot, it’s the collective human urge to catch the colorful, preposterous creatures planted in your immediate virtual environment. I’m talking, of course, about Pokémon Go and the way it’s injected the prosaic backdrop of our cities and suburbs (there’s room for improvement in rural areas, I hear) with life and whimsy. Yes, it’s artificial, but we’d never hoof five-kilometer laps around our neighborhoods to look at the same tired scenery, would we?

I won’t make the obvious analogy between a goofy monster hovering over your cracked sidewalk and the effect literature has of remaking the trusty old human experience. I’m taking a different angle with the fact that the monsters in your proximity have a shelf life of about 15 minutes before they’re rotated out for a new crop. It’s mortality (our pet obsession) at its finest: a quest—largely meaningless—to acquire all of the spoils we see. We will never succeed. But we might just spend enough time at it to run down the clock.

~T.M De Vos, Editor


Evidence by Catherine Arra

Threshold by Gary Beck

Unfinished Business at the Halfway House by Jean Berrett

How long before I… by SuzAnne C. Cole

Without by Alexis Fedorjaczenko

An Unconventional Breaking and from Anger this Motivation by A.J. Huffman

Suicide by Gayle Newby

Elegy by Sharon Scholl

Return and Stranded on Horn Island by Richard Weaver


Far from Heaven by Scarlett Gray


Resurrection by Howard Brown

The Visible Man by Beth Sherman

Continue reading “Summer Issue 2016”

In Conversation with Ploi Pirapokin

Shamar Hill: I’m curious about your background and how you came to writing.

Ploi Pirapokin: I came to writing primarily because I loved reading and wanted to be in conversation with the authors I read. My father had always boasted about having read every book in the library at university and 6-year-old me wanted to do the exact same thing. I grew up speaking Thai and Cantonese but was enrolled in an international school where we were only allowed to speak English. So to catch up with my native English-speaking friends, I went to the public library and picked up a few books every week to build upon my vocabulary. If I came across a word that I didn’t know the definition of, I’d leave it and see how it sounds with the rest of the sentence. I learned English that way – through repeating sounds, phrases, and sentence structures – and eventually through Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey’s music. It was only when I started writing fiction seriously that I began to care about finding the most precise, accurate word and/or phrasing to depict what I was describing, but even then, I would care about how it sounded within the sentence and if the rhythm was off, or the tone wasn’t quite right, I’d rewrite the sentence.Continue reading “In Conversation with Ploi Pirapokin”

Winter Issue 2016

One remembers. One forgets. Snow drifts down and specks the tops of things. A man crosses the street to buy a sleeve of scratch cards from a kiosk. All the newspaper headlines are gloomy and ecstatic. A cheap pack of cigarettes now costs twelve bucks. Running into an old friend is like two roads converging in a wood. Turns out, one was just the long way around.

Today, we leave winter behind with an issue full of cacophony and bad sense. We leap into tales of ill-fated scuffles and ill-conceived plans, and we explore cave spaces and gorges and spare rooms and hospitals. We ask how one is supposed to know the right way to act at a party, and we wonder, and the end of the day, if politics comes down to a button and a smile.

~Bram Shay, Editor


There Ought to Be a Manual by C. Wade Bentley

Burning Wishes  by Guiseppe Getto

One Poem by Couri Johnson

Spare Room by Suzanne Richter

Evil Wise Girl by Dvorah Telushkin


Muslim Apologies by Alia Hussain Vancrown


Cambridge Close by Raquel Moran

Of Masters and Marionettes by Faith Thomas

The Magician by Dylan Henderson


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Review: The Darkening Trapeze by Larry Levis

David St. John chose a fitting title for Larry Levis’ posthumous collection: The Darkening Trapeze. Most of these terrifying yet dazzling poems were written in the last two years before his unexpected death in 1996, at the age of forty-nine. The title phrase is pulled from “Elegy with a Darkening Trapeze inside it” which is one of two Elegy poems that were not included in Levis’ 1997 posthumous collection, Elegy. In the afterward, the editor of The Darkening Trapeze, David St. John, explains that Levis was inspired by the film auteur Federico Fellini, whose movies such as La Strada, often feature the circus.Continue reading “Review: The Darkening Trapeze by Larry Levis”

Blunt memos and elliptical effacements: Collier Nogues’s “The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground”

In these erasure poems, Collier Nogues presents oblique, redolent lines that contain and complicate the ghostlike traces left behind from original historical documents. Nogues has created a beautiful, haunting piece of work with The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground, winner of the inaugural Drunken Boat Poetry Book Contest.

You can read Nogues’s poems as simply the appearance of inviting, enigmatic words on a page. But you can also read them while moving your finger or your cursor over the offered lines, in this way interacting with the text as you reveal as well as conceal the primary texts on which the poems are based.Continue reading “Blunt memos and elliptical effacements: Collier Nogues’s “The Ground I Stand on Is Not My Ground””