In Constance Renfrow’s story “The Lady of the House,” what appears to be a classic ghost story takes on an extra psychosocial layer, exploring the dysfunctional relationship between the main character Marla and her new husband Armand. While Armand is in the story, he is always at a distance, appearing via memory or phone call; we spend the most time inside Marla’s head, becoming intimate not only with her but with her all-consuming loneliness. No one around her is willing to fully engage with her, to acknowledge her reality, and Marla vows to get proof of what she is experiencing: “Something to show Armand or the cops or the neighbors; the next time anyone doubted, she would have something to make them understand she was telling the truth.”
Rachel Veroff also takes a close look at a dysfunctional relationship in her essay “Everything Presses In,” reflecting on her toxic friendship with “S.” in relation to her struggles with addiction and writing. She writes of S.: “What are glamorous, rich-cool-girl, addict friends for, if not for reaching out to shove your head below the surface of the water—right when you were about to catch a breath of air?” The essay maintains an experimental form and remains focused on images of wetness vs. dryness throughout, emphasizing the idea of drunkenness vs. sobriety, of fresh thoughts vs. edited thoughts, rough drafts vs. polished work.
Sandy Coomer’s poetry gives us snapshots of a dysfunctional relationship between a child and an adult, perhaps a father figure. In “The Small Book of Virtues” a group of children struggles to understand how a moment of disturbing violence is actually evidence of an adult’s goodness and love. “Kitchen,” on the other hand, presents the calm, familiar/familial act of making a sandwich as a potential nightmare, every motion inspiring fear: “You are a child, but you know / the flash that lies between / a kiss and a curse. How quick it is.” The poems enthrall us because of these raw and conflicting emotions.
Our featured artist Ronna Lebo is a poet too, and in an interview on Radio Free Brooklyn’s Talking Paper podcast, she talks about how her drive to write poetry and her drive to create art come from the same place inside her, where she is wanting to tell a story and, in the case of art, “draw the words.” It’s easy to see this poetic tie when you look at her paintings, how bold and colorful and thought-provoking they are, including even the titles: “Blue Grudge,” “Snake Sock,” “Corn Apocalypse.” Lebo also dedicates herself to publishing work from others that combines art and poetry through the small press she co-founded, Black Square Editions.