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September 23, 2019 by The Citron Review

by Joanne Nelson


Mayonnaise, cream cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, Thai peanut sauce. My visiting, hungry daughter checks expiration dates and exhales patience. One hand holds the refrigerator door open and she bends at the waist to reach for each jar, long hair falling over her shoulder. From my seat at the kitchen counter, I analyze each item ahead of her hand, calculating length of time since purchase.

This is how it begins. Soon the phrase, “And you should see what I found in her refrigerator…” will pepper her conversation with friends.

My mother’s refrigerator, at the end of her independence, contained, among other things: a saucepan of chicken noodle soup—small moons of chicken fat floating in the thin broth; plastic containers of gray-brown fuzziness; and several half-cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I tossed and tossed into white Hefty bags which I stacked next to the over-full garbage bin at the end of her driveway. No one witnessed the hunched muscles of my shoulders or the building tension in my face as I worked. But if my mother could escape her nursing home, could escape her failing self, I think she’d recognize this look. Even be able to imitate it; I wore it so often in her presence.

The handle of my grandmother’s Philco was a hard pull before the loud, sticky door seal released to reveal half-eaten apple pie, gravy-soaked roast beef on a chipped flower rimmed plate, and drying, unwrapped cheese on yet another chipped plate. Every Sunday her small home filled with luscious smells and flavors, savory pies and meats. I ate and overate but avoided any leftovers if I visited during the week, all those exposed leftovers growing more harmful with each passing day. Perhaps I was too cautious though—Grandma cooked for herself well into her nineties. She lived until my daughter grew in me, until I could reach into the refrigerator of my own home and bring out apples extra flavorful for having been kept cold and unsliced.

I remember the comforting edge of those broken plates, can see the dividing line where the border of the aging yellow/orange cheese faded to softness—where a thin paring knife could cut away anything unpleasant and save the rest for another time. I hear her say, whatever I do to my mother I’ll get back three-fold.

I hear her say it again as I watch my girl, now so grown, so beautiful, turn from the refrigerator, jar in hand, like a punctuation mark of continuance or ending.


Joanne Nelson is the author of the memoir, This is How We Leave forthcoming from Vine Leaves Press. Her writing appears in literary journals such as Brevity, Midwestern Gothic, the museum of americana, Consequence, and Redivider. Nelson is a contributor to Lake Effect on 89.7 WUWM, her NPR affiliate based in Wisconsin. She lives in Hartland, Wisconsin, where she develops and leads community programs, maintains a psychotherapy practice, and adjuncts. More information is at wakeupthewriterwithin.com


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Snow on brush in desert

IMAGE CREDIT: Jill Katherine Chmelko. Protest Road, Winter. 2019.

🍋Our Tenth Anniversary


    Cheers to ten years of celebrating the short form.


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Can you talk with animals? "The Soldier on the Mountain" just might have to. Come hike this #flashfiction odyssey from @BlerianaMyftiu with us. https://citronreview.com/2019/12/21/the-soldier-on-the-mountain/ Bleriana Myftiu is from Tirana, Albania. She holds an MFA in Fiction from San Francisco State University and is a Fiction Reader for @atticusreview. Visit blerianamyftiu.com
Our first poem of 2020 comes from Richard Foerster in our New Winter Issue. https://citronreview.com/2019/12/21/first-poem/ #amreading #poetry Foerster’s eighth collection is Boy on a Doorstep: New and Selected Poems (Tiger Bark Press, 2019)
Pacific Northwest writer @savannahslonewriter reminds us of our new year's resolutions in "i want to start a podcast but." https://citronreview.com/2019/12/21/i-want-to-start-a-podcast-but/ Slone is the author of several books including the forthcoming An Exhalation of Dead Things (@clashbooks, 2021), Hearing the Underwater (@flpbooks, 2019) and This Body is My Own (@ghostcitypress, 2019)
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Poetry is currently closed for submissions until February 1st. Last year Shining Rock Poetry Anthology and Book Review interviewed managing editor @ericsteineger about how we make our poetry picks. Eric writes, "There are poems that are wonderfully accessible and reveal rich narratives. Poems that lessen the distance between the strangers who inhabit the planet and ourselves. But sometimes I read those poems, loving them, and feel I can continue without returning to those lines. Sometimes it is the odd bird in the forest I cannot escape; however hard I try to move on, I return, fascinated by its new pose on a tree -- its awkward, yet strangely affecting song. While it is difficult to describe the voice of a typical Citron poem, I can tell you some of our favorite poets: John Ashbery, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Terrance Hayes, Kate Hall, Rene Char, Richard Siken, Anne Carson, e.e. cummings, Sharon Olds, Lee Ann Roripaugh, and Brenda Shaughnessy." http://www.shiningrockpoetry.com/notes-on-editing-at-the-citron-review-by-eric-steineger #TheCitronReview #onlinejournal #briefliterature #celebratingtheshortform #cheersto10years #Citron10 #amreading

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