Wang Ping “Wushan, Badong, Three Gorges”
“Velocity is advancing everywhere,” writes Howie Good in “Dirge of the Dying Year.”
Issue 8 of Glint Literary Journal publishes in December as 2017 hurtles to a close, and, like the speaker of Good’s prose poem, we find ourselves “in a headspace that was pricked with stars” we can’t “identify, 50 by last count and all of them always promising to return to their wandering orbits. Now what do we do?”
We are agog and aghast as we peer past bodies that once occupied Wall Street, past Standing Rock, past Charlottesville. Too bad Charles Dickens is not alive to compose The Tale of Two Bubbles. If he were, he might open by pronouncing the end of times to be humankind’s greatest. Even the emoticon’s Wow resembles Edvard Munch’s Scream.
Last November, when Glint reopened to submissions, we did not identify crisis, havoc, apocalypse as themes and, yet, we might have done.
Many of this year’s contributions depict the mind confronted with calamity.
In “The Still Life of Leaving,” AJ Urquidi speaks of “Fear’s fires—end’s coming, / though not for all creations.” Jim Zola’s child characters ride bikes past an atomic power plant, brave the threat of radiation poisoning by dipping toes into poisoned river water. They play at primal screaming, imagine: “This is what / the end must sound like.”
Some writers notice that disaster’s din has long been with us even if we weren’t always listening. Stephanie Sauer demonstrates the ways in which history and archaeology construct stories from decontextualized perspectives in “Meet the Pilgrim Fathers,” an assemblage piece in which Aztecs meet astronauts within the frame of a Step-Up children’s book. In an excerpt from Claire Stancek’s “OIL SPILL,” another hybrid genre contribution, drone strikes produce indecipherable code, fragmented images of ornamented fretwork and pocked sidewalks. Stancek binds and separates her stanzas with the thinnest of moon slivers.
What if the moon were never whole again? Is time running backwards? What if the future consists of little more than relived past? Has dystopia arrived already?
No wonder the speaker of Alafia Nicole Sessions’ poem can’t help wondering if her grandma will understand her love for a white man (“The same kind who launched hot rocks at her head and back,” the “same kind who raped her sister on the dusty closet floor”). In Tricia Knoll’s contribution, a cottonwood bears witness to the hanging of an accused “rustler-murderer-thief” as the man’s wife and child flee to a nearby reservation. A “dozen decades” later, that tree survives despite “a hole near the roots where rot begins.”
Trauma reveals itself in lacunae, that is, in exterior and interior wounds, openings, gaps. Psychic injuries result from separation as well as from desecration.
“It takes pressure to split a face” and “patience to clean an inner cavity,” observes Genelle Chaconas in “The Weary Matter of Reason,” in which she dares to peel back metaphoric flesh as if the author were a modern-day Ripper. Her words graphically reveal a “moist geography” and, beneath, a “blank cosmos,” “what could have been if a spark had never / lit the sky.” That emptiness is echoed by Amy Rose Lipsky’s flash fiction, in which a wormhole opens in the breast of an abandoned lover who wakes to find an “empty space once occupied” replaced by “the static imprint of a human soul in [her] bed.”
Separation from a loved one is less harrowing, less spirit-destroying in Lana Bella’s “Dear Suki” poems, where memory smolders with a sensory intensity even as an “entire city at the noon / hour heave[s]” into “graveyard.” For Wang Ping, the sense of loss arises when she’s asked where she’s from. “I say ‘Weihai,’ she writes, “even though / nobody knows where it is, / even though I’ve never been to the place.” For the poet, the distance between home and destination remains an insurmountable space for immigrant parents as well as for their descendants. The wound, though ancestral, aches. Phantom pain will not be confined to an individual body.
Iris Jamahl Dunkle echoes the words of Jack London: “Appearances are ghosts. Life is a ghostland.” Here, the human body resembles a buzzard-afflicted oak that manages to “unwind” limbs “toward / whatever blue remains in the sky.”
No wonder Diane DeCillis is “on empathy overload.” She is “[i]n the Company of Sufferers” where walls do not protect against “emotional vampires— / psychopaths, sociopaths, soul-gobbling / narcissists.” Do our psychological walls render us complicit? Haven’t we all been guilty of contributing to the societal amnesia that enables the erasure of people like the woman who “pulls a cart” through a Mumbai marketplace in Connie Post’s poem? Though “scarves / drag heavy” and the woman’s “arms / become stones,” passersby do not offer assistance. She cannot recall
the time when the
neck of the sky
turned itself to notice her
to cast its
No wonder the speaker of Kara Dorris’ “Against Wisdom” feels such guilt. “I am failing everyone,” she frets, “especially the ones / with tumors.” She suspects that she is even “failing the sky / & everything that falls from it.” No doubt, she’s let down the “wisteria & belladonna, rattlers / & garden snakes,” too. Meanwhile, Bo Niles’ “Eggs,” a prose poem, expresses fear “for the future of human ova,” especially that of the speaker’s granddaughter, who is “only nine” with “so many more years to live.”
Even magic offers no escape. The narrator of Sam Leuenberger’s “Larry and Godmother” (stricken with an unnamed malady that may be mental or physical or both, his hospitalization a form of imprisonment) waits like a princess from the older, more brutal fairy tales. Like Hans Christian Andersen’s little mermaid, Larry is plagued by hopes—one might admit delusions—of true love that require terrible transformation and suffering: “I was ripped up out of the water, thrashing wildly and cursing the air. Through the cables of the bridge I could see dark bruises on the surface of the moon, that piece of pale fruit. ‘We got one!’ a man cheered. I hung there, rasping, furious and terrified, swaying left and right. I scrabbled pitifully for an escape.” In Larry’s grim adventure, magic is confusing rather than mystical, squalid rather than beautiful. In a very different story, the artist narrator of Marc S. Cohen’s “Hyperreal” suggests that “[o]urs is a time where unusual psychic phenomena, e.g. precognition, say, or déjà-vu, no longer seem to unnerve . . . . The way something hints at a higher reality, a hyperreality, strikes like an epiphany, yet can vanish as fleetingly as a Snapchat photo.” Or, we might add, as capriciously as that “Ghost of Unexpected Arousal” from Bill Wolak’s visual contribution to issue 8.
Romance proves a similarly failed venture for the narrator of Michael Reid Busk’s “J’Accuse” and “Casual (Californian),” two works in a series that offer different perspectives on the same break-up. “J’Accuse” is fueled by a wrath appropriate to its title and apparent from its opening sentences:
I accuse everyone, I accuse everything.
I accuse Blair’s long neck, which she appraises smugly every time she looks in a mirror, a neck
which makes her think that an infinite stream of increasingly perfect men will forever be queuing
up to date her.
But “Casual (Californian)” revisits the relationship in a more doubtful mood.
And, after all, who can afford certainty? Is hope not foolishness, trust not a mirage? Can one have faith in tradition, religion, one’s kindly-seeming distant relations, the people in one’s neighborhood, one’s parents and children? Characters in J. N. Pratley’s “Toula’s Bullets,” Mariya Taher’s “American Daughters,” and Hamad al-Rayes’ “Dingmaro,” wrestle with prejudices, their own and others’. Time after time, our contributors refuse to provide facile resolutions as solace.
How to cope with so much catastrophe? We could attend to kitchen rituals and eating contests like those depicted in Lesley Valdes’ and Larkin Higgins’ contributions. We might visit the House of Astrology or Hangover’s Lounge, respectively depicted in Michael Barbeito’s and Michelle Brooks’ photographs. We could stare at the ceiling (see William C. Crawford’s photographic contribution). Or immerse ourselves in nature (see Fariel Shafee’s “Riversong”).
Jamie Wilson, a member of Glint’s editorial board, offers glimpses of other coping strategies in her cigarette break and coffee shop photos from a recent trip to Melbourne. Caffeine is comfort food. You may detect appreciation for that fossil fuel in the managing editor’s tribute to another coffee shop at the Chimney Rock Dinosaur Museum in North Carolina.
However, in these pages, we offer you other means of resistance. We offer art, poetry, and stories for it is their creation and consumption that lends us the strength to stand up for ourselves and for each other. May self care and societal care never be mutually exclusive.
In issue 8 of Glint, we hope you will find “catalysts[s] for coming / closer,” to borrow words from Jesse Rice-Evans’ “I Want to Know More About You through the Conduit of Me.” While we do not “forget [our] ghosts,” we aim to share our bodies, our origins, our myths with other survivors. We hope you will share your own with us by submitting to issue 9, now open to submissions. We encourage all our readers to take up the defiance that Rice-Evans articulates. Share our resolution to “slip into something soft and green,” “daffodil[s] thrusting into early spring.”
Brenda Mann Hammack and Sonya C. Brown