It’s mid-May here as I wrap up this issue, and the snow from a not-unusual-for-Colorado storm just a few days ago is melting, giving way to something that bears some resemblance to spring, though I feel I hardly recognize it. For so many of us everywhere, this is a time when the familiar has been made strange. Thanks to the pandemic, we have been sealed off from much of what has always been so common, so wonderfully ordinary in our lives—a restaurant, the grocery store, our friends’ homes—and now everything looks, well, different as we stand at the threshold of reentry. We are reminding ourselves how to be in these spaces, out in the world, with one another.
In this issue, we have essays and stories that speak to this sense of re/introduction. In her essay “The Ghosts of Lubbock,” Sarah Curtis writes about reconciling the two versions of her singer-songwriter father—“my real father and my stage father”—and coming to understand them both. Jehanne Dubrow, the daughter of an American diplomat, recalls growing up in Warsaw and Vienna, cities that felt simultaneously familiar and foreign and that she remembers now with both fondness and grief in “Provenance.” In “The Lady with the Dogs,” Richard Sonnenmoser contemplates that most intimate territory of all—the self—as he is rendered nearly unrecognizable to himself when he becomes a father. In Bradley Bazzle’s story “Scuttling and Creeping,” a man who’s moved to a new town with his wife and toddler encounters an unfamiliar sense of menace in both his new home and his daughter’s daycare center. In a haunting and lyrical piece set aboard the space shuttle Challenger, “A Thousand White Ibises,” Lance Olsen imagines the crew’s last conscious moments—the deeply embedded images and memories they each return to. The narrator in Tom Howard’s “Disappearing Act” revisits his childhood after receiving news that a friend from that time, whom he hasn’t thought of in years, has died. And in an instant of anger, the narrator of Nikki Ervice’s “Helen” makes a decision that breaks “through the suture between two worlds”: one, the comfortable and known world she inhabits with her boyfriend; the next, a strange terrain in which he no longer exists.
As we make our way through this transition into a world that in many ways may never be quite the same, we can rely on touchstones and signposts of the familiar: among them, of course, literature. Welcome (back) to the summer issue. —Stephanie G’Schwind
When the pandemic struck, I was teaching for Semester at Sea. China was the second international stop on our itinerary. Of course, those plans changed—more times than I can count. For the past year and a half, we have all had to live with increased levels of uncertainty, and while summer comes as a relief, we know that we aren’t so much exiting a difficult period as we are standing in the rubble, not only of a slowing pandemic, but of generations of injustice and division. Poetry has offered solace during these long, lonely months, and it can offer us a way forward as well. I think many have been drawn to poetry because it exists in uncertainty: it is born here, it lives here, and it rests here. When I began reading for this issue in late fall 2020, I was in the midst of a poetic crisis. Lacking the attention required of poetry, I was unable to write, or read, poetry for any sustained period of time. I felt disconnected from the art that had, over the years, not only sustained me, but saved me. But little by little, as I read submissions, I was reconverted. In the poems’ midst, I remembered, I don’t have to resist uncertainty; I just have to rest in its presence. “There is no perfect truth I can say of you—,” writes Jade Hurter, “even constant hearts dwell in mutable bodies.” Poetry may have no perfect truth to proclaim, but the poems in this issue are waiting to welcome you into a summer of repose and possibility. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. —Sasha Steensen
Featured in This Issue
Gabriella Balza, Bradley Bazzle, Sarah Curtis, Darren Demaree, Jehanne Dubrow, Nikki Ervice, Rage Hezekiah, Anna Maria Hong, Tom Howard, Jade Hurter, Jordan Keller-Martinez, Ae Hee Lee, Patricia Liu, Shane McCrae, Andrew Mossin, Neha Mulay, Lance Olsen, Kevin Prufer, Sara Quinn Rivara, Richard Sonnenmoser, Sun Tzu-Ping, G. C. Waldrep, Paige Webb, Nicholas Wong