Justin Brouckaert's avatar

Justin Brouckaert

New story live at Swarm!

This is the first of a few pieces I’ve written that are inspired by Minus the Bear song titles. Happy to have it in Swarm!


Submissions Reopened (Now With Fiction & Creative Non-Fiction!)


The moment you’ve been on the edge of your seat for: submissions have reopened for Banango Street and will be open indefinitely! Click here to send us your work.

In addition to the normal poetry and art categories, we’re pleased to announce we’re opening our doors once again to fiction and…

So, hey, I’m doing this thing now. Send me all your funky fiction!

Many of us began by writing novels that were formless and unpublishable. I wrote three or four of them. Then I started writing short stories in order to learn how to manage form—really, how to write fiction. Writing short stories taught me how to write plausible fiction. I also developed a love for the form of the short story that I’ve never really lost. Writers transition from the short story form to the novel for many reasons, including the prestige of the novel form, the commercial value of novels (they sell better), and because of the novel’s capacious form, which permits the elaboration of a social or personal history.

Charles Baxter, in Buzzfeed Books’ “18 Short Story Writers On Why They Decided To Write A Novel

2014 Book #58: LUNCH POEMS by Frank O’Hara


"oh god it’s wonderful

to get out of bed

and drink too much coffee

and smoke too many cigarettes

and love you so much.”

From “Steps”

2014 Book #57: SCARY, NO SCARY by Zachary Schomburg


"It is difficult to tell what will happen next.

Maybe we’ll hold hands

and walk down the the pond.

Maybe a bat will fly into the pond 

and swim around

like it’s having fun

but then it’ll struggle and start to die.

We’ll watch it start to die.

We’ll agree that we understand how the bat feels.

We’ll say I know the feeling

but we won’t know the feeling.

The feeling we’ll know

is more like being on a chair

with really long legs

sinking slowly into the pond

on a beautiful day.”

From “The Pond”

2014 Book #56: THE BOOK OF JOSHUA by Zachary Schomburg


In the beginning, no one was around. No one made my bed and no one left any told and no one taught me how to swim or how to get back to sleep when I woke up, and no one rocked me to sleep and no one told me the plan. No one told me what to do with my legs. No one told me how to open my hands. The birds waited quietly in the tree. My fingers unfolded on their own like tiny blue swans.

2014 Book #55: EVERY KISS A WAR by Leesa Cross-Smith


"You tell him you call him Tennessee. His brown eyes are searching yours and they look so sad and he wants to be sure you’re going to stop seeing Kentucky and you promise him you will. You promise. His parents and little brother are great and you spend the night in the guest room. He sleeps down the hall in his old bedroom. In the middle of the night you hear a slow creak and he’s standing there eating against the door. You ask if everything is okay and softly, so softly, he tells you he loves you and doesn’t want you to be with anyone else. His voice is deep. His hair is sleepy-messy. Your hands are tucked into the long sleeves of one of his high school shirts. He reaches in and pulls them out and holds them and you tell him you love him too. And it must be a full moon because the moonlight is shining underneath the pulled shade of the bedroom window and it’s so bright. It’s just so bright."

From “And It Can Never Be Too Dark or Too Bright”

2014 Book #54: FJORDS VOL. I by Zachary Schomburg


Costa Rica

"With the money we get for the couch, we buy a little house on the beach. There is no couch inside. We buy our couch back, but have to sell the house to do it. This cycle is how we keep on living. We never grow poor, and we never age. We never really get to know each other. We find some cats and they die in a series of shivery fits, right in front of us, as if to congratulate us on being human."

And I was broke. I remember the pay day loans with the outrageous interest. There was so much ramen. Filling the car with like $5 at a time. Phone getting cut off. No health insurance for years and rarely going to the doctor. I had to get a cat scan once, I can’t even remember why, and it took me years to pay off. I didn’t go to the dentist for years. This is not a sad story because I am lucky. This is just life and frankly, I’ve had it easy in terms of material comfort. I am privileged. I always have been. I had a safety net because my parents would never have let me starve or be homeless, but I was on my own, as an adult should be, and I was often very very broke. I was writing and no one was interested in that writing. I know, now, that I was putting in the work. I still am, of course, but back then I was just beginning to figure out how to use my voice in both fiction and nonfiction. I had a lot to learn and so I wrote and wrote and wrote and read and read and read and I hoped. I was going to school and then working and getting better and better jobs and then more school and I was becoming a better writer and very slowly, a better person. I became less broke and then I was fine, not making that much but always being able to handle my business. Today, I moved and moving is expensive but I could afford it. As I stood in my empty apartment before heading out, I sobbed. That is not something I am prone to doing. I allowed myself to feel everything. I allowed myself to acknowledge how far I have come. This isn’t bragging. This is an atlas.

Roxane Gay, on her twenties

There’s an old adage that you should write what you know. I wish it was: You should write what you know that no one else does.

From Eric Nelson’s "How To Tell People What Your Book Is About" on the Ploughshares blog