December 20, 2015
Letter from the editor
Without having consciously set out to create an ecumenical holiday issue, I can’t help but read and view the work in this issue as fitting for this time of year: hallowing the domestic, transforming the religious, mourning the past, making sense of materialistic clutter, all while working toward peace, love, understanding, if not joy. The word ecumenical comes from the Greek for house, to inhabit, and the work in this issue feels especially conscious of what takes place outside and what inside.
Jim Richards’ poems tease at the domestic, a realm in which earnest immersion and self-aware irony can intertwine, and routine and ritual shade into each other. What comes between people who love each other is also what brings them back to each other, like the laundry a couple folds, or a song a father and son might sing together. “Somewhere between / our last kiss and today’s awkwardness / we forgot the words to an old song.” How much is at play in that awkward, near rhyme, near kiss, of “kiss” and “awkwardness.”
Eric Barnes’ short story “The Minister” turns dystopia on its head, somehow striking a balance between ominous and pleasant. It suggests a different configuration of society’s rituals— putting funerals at the center of community, removing all particularity from religion, and replacing punishment with a belief in redemption—a series of negations that make room for growth. A friend commented to me recently on Hawthorne’s “The Blithedale Romance”: that the utopian community fell apart because it didn’t know how to “do death.” Barnes’ minister, if he is a minister, does; it’s about all he does, besides planting things and dismantling alarms. He is a minister more of outside spaces than interiors.
Elizabeth Gaucher’s memoir of a childhood friend, “Where It Ends,” dwells on what happens when the inside ceases to be a place of safety and a friendship has to stay outside, marking one in a series of endings—where does a childhood end, a life end, or trauma and loss end? “Who she was when we were young has faded in my mind’s eye, while my memories of the woodpecker’s eye, the push pin, and the dirty newsprint fingerprints have grown sharper, as has my sense of loss.”
That images would grow sharper in memory, and the sense of a particular person fade, accentuating the sense of loss, feels in keeping with the collages of Abigail Child, their kaleidoscopic clutter playing with depth and surface, micro- and macro- views, the viewer’s shifting focus creating a sense of spin. “The goal for the (near) future,” Child writes: “to make a cinema-in-the-round where images surround us—fragmented, prismatic, fleeting—impossible to unify, potent, beautiful.” Or, she says—as in all of this—that odd mix of “jolly and foreboding.” Happy holidays!
Rebecca Starks, editor