A year into the pandemic we each continue to find our own ways of understanding and grappling with the nature of isolation, seeking self-care and coping strategies in these Groundhog Days of staying in, staying safe, staying sane. Many of us are, not surprisingly, finding comfort and companionship in reading. Among the joys of literature is connecting with characters, with stories, and recognizing ourselves—thinking, Yes, I have felt that too or I thought I was the only one . . . And in those moments we feel, for better or worse, seen, known, perhaps even understood. So in this issue’s stories and essays, we hope you discover such moments, in which you see yourself, maybe someone else, and find that, though you may be isolated, you are indeed not alone. We are delighted to feature Holly Goddard Jones’s “Antipodes,” a fabulist story set amid environmental crisis and postpartum depression, in which a mother’s obsession with a sinkhole and fears for her family threaten to overwhelm her. In Tim Erwin’s “The Sparks Fly Upward,” a man tries desperately to reconcile with his wife but manages only to get in his own way after an illconceived money-making scheme goes awry. A college student, home for the summer and living with her disintegrating family, takes on a lonely copyediting job and seeks solace in a relationship with an older co-worker in Kim Magowan and Michelle Ross’s co-written “Twenty-Three Safety Manuals.” And in Kathryn Harlan’s “Endangered Animals,” a young woman accompanies her former girlfriend on a cross-country road trip, anticipating a move that may end their friendship. Molly Rogers’s essay “House of Secrets” explores the nature of photography, anxiety, and the secrets our families keep from us, the secrets we keep from them. In “A Shared Stillness,” Monica Macansantos considers the possibilities for connection and healing through tango, drawing on her family’s trauma and her own grief. And in “Monsters,” David Franke returns to his tornado-prone Iowa childhood and observes the unraveling of his parents’ marriage. We welcome you to the spring issue—come, join us. You’ll be in good company.
There comes a tender shock of recognition when reading the opening line of Maria Zoccola’s “At the Downtown Kroger”—“i pray in parking lots”—a recognition not only of shared circumstance but of the courage and humility required to avow as much and then to go forward into the day, into the poem. Every Tuesday morning, just as the designated “Seniors’ Shopping Hour” is about to begin, I pull into our supermarket’s parking lot, adjust my masks (one for safety and one on top of that with a floral pattern to seem less severe), say a quick prayer, and then go inside for the week’s groceries. In this vexed and precarious springtime of 2021, the second spring of the pandemic, all of our public spaces have become little chapels of daring, of wariness, and of faith. We are, it seems to me, newly medieval, steering our shopping carts through allegory, looking to the left and to the right upon our neighbors with both caution and compassion. It’s not surprising, then, that the poems appearing in this issue all resound in several worlds at once: worlds of fact, worlds of emblem, worlds of vague but vital anticipation. The skills required to navigate such worlds, as Mary Ann Samyn beautifully proposes, “include humor and patience.” As a rule, the springtime is a season of exaltation and refreshing carelessness. Yet this spring, we must take care to exercise patience—with ourselves, with our neighbors of every persuasion, and with our struggling planet—in a spirit of humor and with our allegorical smiles intact. The poems we’ve gathered here will, I truly believe, help us all to do just that.