Guest post: Love’s Labor

Map: New Jersey, setting of “Love’s Labor” by Ryder Ziebarth
This is a guest post from Ryder Ziebarth who contributed in response to the American Vignette call for submissions. The setting is New Jersey. Enjoy!

The front views from our New Jersey farmhouse windows sweep across a ten-acre field of timothy. The grass, thigh high now, violet tipped and rippling in the wind like an incoming tide, is almost ready for the second cutting, but surely the farmer who cuts and bales the hay won’t be cutting on Labor Day. Still. I must remind myself to call him, tell him the fields are still too soaked with late summer rain to run the tractor through.

Drinking my coffee in this quiet house while my husband sleeps, I search the field and see the doe; the one who yesterday stood sentry there, with the grass to her flanks. She is standing between two roadside cedars. Now, I am sure that nestled beneath her is a newborn fawn – cinnamon and white spotted – delicate as a bone china teacup teetering on the edge of a table.

I must make sure the farmer won’t be cutting this weekend. I want to give the mother a few more days with her baby. I linger at the window, my eyes now watching my daughter, my first born, my only, drive her jeep away, down the dirt road running parallel to the field. She’s risen and packed early, wanting to get on her way, so much work ahead this semester. Her own life her priority. But she will slow as she passes the doe and her fawn, recognizing the bond. She will not beep her car horn one more time as she usually does, mindful not to startle the fragile pair, but rolls down her window and waves her hand into the air. She knows I wave back, watching her car pull onto the main road stretching out in front of her.

Ryder Ziebarth grew up on the farm she writes about. She is a freelance writer, a Nantucket Book Festival Advisor and currently a candidate for a MFA in Creative Nonfiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, N Magazine, Brevity, as well as other print and online sources. Her daughter, a singer, is in  her last year at Berklee College of Music. Ryder ‘s work can be seen at Notes from the Field.

Guest post: Pin-Points

Map: New York City. setting of “Pin-Points” by MJ Iuppa
This is a guest post from M.J. Iuppa who contributed in response to the American Vignette call for submissions. The setting is New York. Enjoy!

Sitting in a small kitchen, in the swell of August in Astoria, you write your morning thoughts in a journal that’s handmade with pages of parchment and a cover that once was a golden sari.

Voices call over the streets and garden walls in a grammar of sound that echo emotion.

Who has received news? Is the woman’s voice crying or laughing? You slide your chair to the window to look out upon the rows of two story brick houses and the empty streets shimmering with heat. You wonder if the voices were real. You look back at your open page, at the last word written: pinpoint.


Later, in the afternoon, you walk along 86th street with your grown daughter to catch the train back to her apartment. The sidewalk isn’t crowded or noisy with construction, but it is warm and close—you can feel the air pushing against the small of your back. In a split second, your matched stride and conversation falls apart and you find yourself sprawled on a curb. Small bit of grit stuck to your palms. You look up, and instead of seeing your daughter’s face, you see the blue eyes of a Jamaican woman who is asking you if you’re alright. Alright, you say, rising up like a wobbly balloon. No, you’re not, she says, steadying your arm. You need to pay attention. They pushed you— the dead pushed you. Go home. Drink 3 glasses of cold water. Pay attention. You look away, nodding your head as you hold out your hand to your daughter who takes it quickly; then you turn back to thank the woman, but she’s gone.


There are only two steps in paying attention. 1. You must focus on a certain object. 2. You must block out other incoming information. The experts say this: We are only aware of what we pay attention to such as words, sounds, emotion, feeling, taste, places, physical touch. When we pay attention to one object, then we may not notice other objects or things that happen.


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Dark blue eyes– bluer than the sea at night, you know the depths. The cold water you drink without question—to be on the safe side. You can hardly see the stars drifting in the sky’s gauzy net of clouds. Pinpoint: a precise measure. Light shines through either side. The dead are watching . Most of the time, we aren’t. Tonight, you still feel the weight of the woman’s hand on your arm.

M.J.Iuppa lives on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario.  Between Worlds is her most recent chapbook, featuring lyric essays, flash fiction and prose poems (Foothills Publishing, 2013).  She is the Writer-in-Residence and Director of the Visual and Performing Arts Minor Program at St. John Fisher College.  You can follow her musings on writing and creative sustainability on Red Rooster Farm on (A)Stray: One Poet’s Conversation.

Guest post: My Plateau

Map: Colorado, setting of “My Plateau” by Beth Bates
This is a guest post from Beth Bates who contributed in response to the American Vignette call for submissions. The setting is Colorado. Enjoy!

My heart cracks a little when I allow it to revisit the scene where my teenagers are babies and I am a cattleman-turned-lawyer’s wife in southwest Colorado.

We’re living in a one-story house on a one-acre lot among farms and ranches postage-stamped on an irrigated mesa 6,000 feet above sea level. In the field behind our homestead near the Black Canyon, Grand Mesa, San Juan Mountains, and the Uncompahgre Plateau, an amber sea of barley undulates in the September sun. In alternating years the crop is corn. Nearby farms yield onions, the earthy scent of which wafts our way on windy days.

Winters, on the land behind our Spring Creek Mesa house, cows take up residence to munch down stalks left behind from harvest. Heavy bovine rustling noises of milling over rutted rows; mooing, calving, and weaning wails become the soundtrack to my simple life. For four years of days and nights and nap-times, I immerse myself in the livestock sounds like songs I need to learn by heart. I am rapt in views out my kitchen window, over the sink where I bathe my baby girl, soak dishes, bottles, and sippy cups.

One October Saturday, my babes and I play in our pumpkin patch between brittle vines. Over the fence Mr. Brown, my next-door neighbor who still holds hands with his WWII bride, probes out of curiosity born of wisdom. “Where is your husband?” and “When do you two have time to be married?” Indeed. My cattleman-turned-attorney husband seems often to be missing evenings and weekends. Planning commission and fair board meetings, required and optional, eat up certain weeknights. For fun he judges FFA heifers, killing time at cattle auctions at the fairgrounds.

I don’t suspect another woman, but retreating into activities that reconnect him to his ranching youth (where meaning springs from barrel racing, livestock shows, and fair queens) creates distance. On my own becomes the norm, but my little boy and his baby sister are always near; and to the west I sense my plateau as a kindly divine presence watching over his children.

For occasional Sunday outings, we four pile into Daddy’s pickup to climb the one-lane, 4-WD drive road up to Yankee Boy Basin, where we hike along Sneffels Creek among an orange, purple, and blue carpet of Indian paintbrush, lupine, and columbine. Or we might swim in Ouray’s hot springs pools, or head down to Ridgway, where John Wayne filmed “True Grit” near Ralph Lauren’s ranch. After wearing out the kids with play we mosey over to the True Grit Saloon for chicken fingers and burgers. My tall, lumbering spouse always walks the boy or holds the baby so I can finish my meal, I’ll give him that.

How we ever mated remains a mystery. When I met him in downtown Denver, ennui from a recent breakup had numbed me to the point of blindness to our differences. Living in a LoDo highrise in the trendy neighborhood now occupied by Coors Field, he passed for my type. He was wearing a suit. He was tall. If he were a house on the market it could be said that he showed well. As it turns out, he was a real cowboy, having grown up on a small Charolais operation near Golden. He was novel.

Novel does not a happy marriage make, but two angels and a plateau help.

Framed by my kitchen window the Uncompahgre, a Ute word meaning “rocks that make water red,” fills a 10-and-2 field of vision, rising to over 10,000 feet at Horsefly Peak. My plateau begins each day as vivid as the eye can bear: the morning sun illuminates distinct trees and detectable-yet-inscrutable cliffs and crannies of canyons with names like Tabeguache, Escalante, and Unaweep. For two weeks every fall, bright yellow puffs of aspen groves glow against an evergreen backdrop; in winter, spring, and summer its colors come in every shade of pine and umber. In the hour before dusk I watch my plateau swell black as a vast, elevated, shadowy sea behind which the sun slips to shine on Vegas, California, Hawaii, Japan . . .

And every morning the Uncompahgre greets me, its nuances manifest again and friendly, granting me another day in this stunning spot on the planet. “Enjoy me while you are given the privilege of living within my view,” it seems to say. I drink it in while it warms and breaks my heart, unaware that years from now I’ll pine for this vista as one longs for a lost love; ignorant to the fact that ten years hence I’ll look back on toads kissed and princes married, and nearly married, and understand this: the great love of my life was not a person but a place.

Beth is an ardent mother and wife; a reader who writes, a writer who edits, creative nonfictioner; fan of walking outdoors; lover of fresh air, grass, plants, dirt, sand, waves, mountains and, in some cases, the Oxford comma. Being paid to be creative makes her feel like a lottery winner. Her favorite thing is to help other writers shape up their own work. You should try her. She blogs at Lit Salad and Tweets @bethbates.