“I liked scanning the sky, looking for signals,” says the narrator of Kelly Luce’s “The Ugliest Girl at Marcy’s Wedding Pavilion.” “Even when nothing happened, there was still that heartbeat. It was a space—it was space—where I could process what was happening in my life.” We’re all probably looking and listening for signals most of the time. Are you still here? Am I doing this right? Are we in this together? People watching and waiting, anticipating and missing signs of one kind or another, move uneasily through the prose pieces of this issue. In Adam O’Fallon Price’s “The Famous Actress,” a man tries to recapture a time of possibility, of potential, as he flounders in a dream gig he’s unqualified for, the nearby ocean calling to “some deep, uneasy place in himself,” confirming his anxiety. After her baby is stillborn, a young woman in Dyanne Stempel’s “Crashing Shiva” attempts to process her grief by attending the shivas of strangers, looking for cues, hoping “to be surrounded by suffering, to try on all the random pain of the room.” And in Analía Villagra’s “Need Her Badly,” two next-door neighbors fashion a language of noise—thumps on the thin apartment wall, knocks, taps—to reach out to each other in a strangely antagonistic friendship: “I do not know if we’re at war or flirting,” the narrator says. “Wunderkammer,” Lesley Jenike’s lyric essay, contemplates our relationship with museums, the ways they speak to us, tell us who we are: “maybe you became an entirely different person in a museum, looking at your husband reflected in the eyes of a weeping Mary or a Warhol Marilyn.” Absent much information about her grandfather, for whom she is named, Jo-Anne Berelowitz engages in the practice of midrash, taking hints from the scant known facts and creating the narratives that give him a life—“small flashes of illumination casting light onto shadow”—in her essay “Looking for Joseph.” And in “Mirage,” Susanna Sonnenberg recounts the missed, and crossed, signals in her first marriage, the result of having “unconsciously agreed to Not Know things.”
Whether you are gazing at the summer’s night sky or reading this issue, may you find what you need—all the signs and signals and heartbeats that confirm: Yes, I am still here. Yes, you are doing it right. Yes, we are in this together.
—Stephanie G’Schwind, Editor-in-Chief
There is an otherworldly quality to many of these poems, the kind that appears out of our own world when we look closely, as summer often invites us to do. The speaker in Chiyuma Elliott’s “Before the Small Machines” walks between “two pines . . . our doorway,” discovering a new “planet . . . wet and evergreen.” Reading our way through these pages, we, too, can arrive at an opening of sorts. We can find ourselves, as in Brian Henry’s exquisite translation of Tomaž Šalamun’s “Windows,” in a “valley (a natural amphitheater).” At this clearing, we might realize that we are not alone, but rather, we are in the good company of the poem. In Amaranth Borsuk’s and Terri Witek’s collaboration “Origin Stories,” we are offered a vision of what collective looking can do: “We walk in a circle, so that’s how we meet them, as moon and evening star. Their indifference is calming: we are just another contraption as they lower and the sky pinks. The world body opens.” My hope, as you enter this issue is that you, too, might feel welcomed into such a world.
—Sasha Steensen, Poetry Editor
Featured in This Issue
Jo-Anne Berelowitz, Amaranth Borsuk, Akhim Yuseff Cabey, Mansi Dahal, Chiyuma Elliott, Jessica Fischoff, Lesley Jenike, Kelly Luce, Katie Naughton, Mary Peelen, Adam O’Fallon Price, Tomaž Šalamun, Susanna Sonnenberg, Dyanne Stempel, Amber Flora Thomas, Gale Marie Thompson, Analía Villagra, Donna Vorreyer, Sammy Weaver, Terri Witek