We don’t select themes for our issues, but occasionally a theme will emerge anyway, and the body of work we have this month continually directs attention to the natural world (or universe). Perfect timing as we head into the burgeoning summer months!
In her essay “Dark Bodies,” Abi Newhouse examines a family crisis and punctuates the narrative of this fraught situation with thoughts on biology and worms, space and black holes, scientific history and forgotten geniuses. It sounds like it would be overload, but all the elements come together to make a beautiful and cohesive whole, each thread doing its part to highlight the family’s struggle to accept the changes they are facing and their ongoing communication issues: “I want to believe that we can carry on, regardless of separation or hurried and destructive merging. I want to change history.”
Monica Stewart’s paintings and paper art pieces have an ethereality to them, seeming otherworldly even though they are depictions of common living things. In the paintings, bees, moths, and seed pods are suspended in air with no other identifiable objects around them, while in the paper work you can find humans creeping into the images and even sometimes playing out a scene from within the stomach of an animal.
In our featured fiction “The Italian Dance” by Emily Alice Katz, most of the characters are confined to a hospital the entire story and spend a great deal of their time dreaming of having more—better health, more energy, fuller lives. Evie, the main character, is fixated on the outside world and obtaining her freedom. She sits by the windows whenever possible, and even when she can’t see the mountains she desperately wants to visit, she imagines she can feel them calling to her: “She guesses that wild cherry trees grow on their own out there, in the mountains, without coddling. She can picture the aspens, their leaves a thousand tiny hands clapping in the wind.”
Rebecca Durham’s poetry leads you with breathless excitement through nature—but also, with a generous use of white space and well-placed punctuation, allows you to pause at times to drink it all in, even demands this: “Of earth, a fluidity. / Yet speak nothing, think nothing. Body edgeless, silent, still.” The sensory details of what the speaker is experiencing are a reminder to pay closer attention when we are walking through woods, to remember what we gain from embracing the present moment.