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Jeff’s poems in a previous issue.

Jeff’s translations of Mieczysław Jastrun.

Jeff’s website.

Jeff’s new poetry collection Pretenders from Carnegie Mellon University Press.

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Contributor Notes




Jeff Friedman

Jeff Friedman

 

 

 

The Princess and the Frog

 

Before the wedding, there were the usual preparations. The princess primped before the mirror, her eyes puffy.  The flies swarmed bloody buckets. The handmaids scrubbed the floors. The royal guard punished the stones with their heavy boots. Before the wedding, the prince vowed to represent all his people and to rule with kindness and compassion. The torturers paraded through the streets, lifting heads on pikes. The dragons unleashed fire in icy caves. Before the wedding, there was the scowl of the princess shimmying into her dress. There was the red ball rescued from the pond long before.  There was the frog who had turned into a prince, executing enemies and friends a dozen at a time. 

 

 

 

 

The First Adam

 

He woke up naked on a bed of spongy grass with no memory of the past. Bright globes dangled in air.  Dense green, flying things swooped over him. Nothing looked familiar, but words rolled off his tongue, garden, apple, fig, grape, vine—fruit—leaf, stem, branch, barkvegetable.  The serpent slid toward him. “I’m Adam,” he said. “What does Adam mean,” the young man asked. “Nothing,” the serpent answered, “It means Nothing.” “Who am I,” the young man asked, wondering if he had a name also. “You’re the serpent,” he answered. “And serpents crawl on their bellies.” Near them, a tree shone with gold fruit.  The serpent climbed the tree, winding around its trunk. He knocked down the fruit. “Taste it, it’s an apple,” he said. The young man took a bite and liked the taste and then he devoured the rest of it. The serpent knocked down three more apples and the young man devoured all of them. After, he felt a sharp pain in his belly and the words “snake” and “serpent” came from his mouth. Then he hissed.

 

 

 

 

Mini Skirt

 

Black and silky, the mini skirt fell perfectly on Rachel’s lean thighs. She had found it in a shop on Main Street. “It’s so cute,” she said as though describing a pet kitty.  “I had to stop and buy it.”  She sashayed in front of us tirelessly even though we warned her that the mini skirt might turn on her. And then it happened: the mini skirt opened its mouth, showing its fangs.  We tried to help her, but it was too late. Like a snake, it swallowed her whole and then digested her slowly, breaking down her bones. When it was all over, the mini skirt lay on the ground peaceful and content. Danielle leaned down to pick it up, but it grabbed her by the arm and pulled her into its maw. In tears, Wasabi lit matches and tossed them at the skirt, but the skirt was flame retardant, and the matches went out. Then Jess emptied her canister of mace on the mini skirt, but it didn’t cry out, blinded, tears burning its face; instead, wrinkled and stained, it strutted past us down Main Street, looking for a new owner or the right top.