As we approach the third year of the pandemic—an ongoing interruption, suspension, cessation—some of us have been struggling a bit with our sense of time: Did we do that last year or was it the year before . . . The months seem to flow one into the next, often without the usual demarcations of events or celebrations or rituals we use as guideposts in remembering where we’ve been, when we’ve been, and thus how we’ve been. In Ariel Katz’s story “Disaster Management,” in which a young couple labors through the hurts and silences of their foundering relationship, our narrator describes that period of her life as a “seasonless year.” It’s a fitting phrase not just for these times but for the stories and essays in this issue, which locate themselves in states of disorientation and uncertain borders. A young woman grieving the death of her twin brother, in Maggie Pahos’s “Rhinoceros Ridge,” seeks refuge in travel, in “the winding roads that don’t tell you where you are—that let you forget.” In Courtney Sender’s deeply haunting “Prayer for Being Kissed,” a man survives execution but longs to die on his own terms, existing briefly, perhaps messianically, among the dead in the space between life and death. And in Caroline Schmidt’s “Nocturne,” a woman with suicidal tendencies examines her life—and all the things that keep her from ending it—and concludes: “What all these interruptions added up to was my life.” Shze-Hui Tjoa relates the splitting of her self, as a young piano prodigy, into body and mind, then the way “life comes, pulsing, to the thin screen between this world and the next” in her essay “The Story of Body.” Helena de Bres’s “Elevation” invites us into a transcendent meditation on the elevator: “its own enclosed world, set at some distance from the rest of civilization.” And in “Great Fortune,” Mike Broida reflects on the nature of luck, fortune, and fate as he looks back on an accident, considering for a moment a near possible world in which a car did not collide with his bicycle.
These are disorienting times: we are learning to adjust to a new normal, to observe ever-shifting boundaries between what is safe and not safe, to live in the now but have hope for the then. In the meantime, we can ground ourselves in story, in poetry, in these pages. Welcome to the spring issue.
Spring is meant to be a season of delightful impatience, an eager anxiety to get on with the business of blossoming and becoming. In my college days, the nearer spring approached, the farther and farther back in the lecture halls I would sit, trying to catch the first green fragrance through the door. And then would come a day when, although the lecture was beautifully devoted to a beautiful poem by Yeats, I could bear it no more, and out the door I went, delighted. But in this third springtime of a global pandemic, we are all of us suffering impatience of a very different sort. Nearness has become claustrophobic. Familiarity has become a presentiment of rage. What, if anything, can speak to this terrible, this almost insupportable impatience? Only the quiet remembrance of things Permanent, things Eternal, such as springtime. I direct you toward James Longenbach’s “The Interpreter,” and especially to the lines “Right above our heads / New stars are born. / New words occur. . . .” Poetry is an impatience clothed in life’s permanence. Look to Ethel Rackin’s “Something like Life” to find a “great show of light coming through.” In poetry, words are the transparent garment of permanence. Or, as Sarah Crossland would have it, in “The Silent City,” “bluebirds / singing there beneath the ice.” We are not captives. Word by word, a captivating springtime makes us free.
Featured in This Issue
Ben Abercrombie, Mike Broida, Nancy Naomi Carlson, Emily Carr, Meriwether Clarke, Sarah Crossland, Helena de Bres, Samantha DeFlitch, Shira Dentz, Michael Dumanis, James Earp, Jen Stewart Fueston, Ariel Katz, Andrew Koch, Catherine Kyle, James Logenbach, Aaron LoPatin, Rachel Mannheimer, Bern Mulvey, Sarah Nance, Maggie Pahos, Donald Platt, Ethel Rackin, Jack Ridl, Caroline Schmidt, Ethan Seeley, Courtney Sender, Brett Shaw, Kathryn Knight Sonntag, Shze-Hui Tjoa, D. S. Waldman, Kathleen Winter, Emily Wolahan, Jane Zwart