I admire the confidence of this short and beguiling piece. The author sets in motion a tarot-spread of elements—the war, the wheel, the gold—and alchemizes a novelistic series of arrivals and reversals. The result is timeless, but, like a dream, it indicates a particularity at once haunting and enticing. I want to drain out through the hole this brief piece has pierced in me. — Joyelle McSweeney, 2017 Flash Contest Judge


Beth Bachmann

from BWR 44.2


In the war, I discovered my love of the wheel (end quote).

Gold, the dead thought, the skin and bones of the gods must be made of it, so they painted the tombs ochre, though it was toxic, arsenic.

Anyway, it comes rom the mountains—the ochre, if not the gods, maybe.

You’ve seen it running along like a scar so you go with your knife pressed against the seam and get a little, enough for your face, your neck, your sail to protect if from seawater.

The last sound a drowned man makes is frothy and your knife kind of grinds to get it out.

The boat is heavy with prayer beads bubbling up.

Beth Bachmann is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow in poetry and the author of three books from the Pitt Poetry Series: Temper, winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize and Kate Tufts Discovery Award, Do Not Rise, winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and CEASE, winner of the VQR Emily Clark Balch Prize (forthcoming Fall 2018). Each fall, she serves as Writer in Residence in the MFA program at Vanderbilt University.

For more information about submitting to our 2018 Contest click here.