February 20, 2015
Letter from the editor
In her inkblot series, Jessica Nissen begins with a piece evoking Rorschach inkblots, the bilateral symmetry of which always suggests brain imaging to me, lesions and brain stems. She adds elements of her perception, setting the viewer off balance. Even when the image stays symmetrical, we experience a temporal asymmetry in how we read it, including the jump to and from its title. I find myself hovering between gestalt shifts, as if these images might allow me to live inside the moment of creative insight, the shift between one perception and another.
“The untethered life,” Dylan Cape, aka the Caped Canaveral, calls that moment in Hubert Vigilla’s story, which interweaves the arc of a death-defying stunt with the arc of a life. He plays back to himself the moment he wants to hold onto, the apex, when nothing feels impossible: “He looked up into the hole in the parachute and how distant it seemed, narrowing as though it were floating farther and farther away, too distant, puffing like a jellyfish desperate for warm water.” Is he parachute or jellyfish, gravity-defying hero or vulnerable ego? In the silent soundtrack of these moments we hear the answer to the announcer’s tacky build-up to his stunt: “Who needs the love?”
“Help them know what love should look like now,” Sarah Marty-Schlipf’s father prays for her, as she and her husband wrestle with conflicting responsibilities: for the damaged dog they have rescued, for the people in their lives, for their own lives. Marty-Schlipf has her own gestalt shift of insight: “Each real or imagined snub chipped at my ego: maybe he’d sniffed out my inadequacies; maybe my issues, not his, were the problem. When it came to love—what it is, how to give and receive it, whether or not I was loveable—my dog pressed on every bruise that had never quite healed.” Love comes to look not unlike the Caped Canaveral’s compulsion: “Progress. Regress. Repeat.” Sarah, too, finds herself living for and inside the untethered, off-leash moments of vicarious joy.
Brock Jones’ poems could adopt the epigraph of “Shelter,” with slight modification: “Fantasy and ego, meet fact.” In these elegies, I feel the gestalt shift around the word “casualty”—the casual tone, the offhand gesture, the fatal accident. The poems work like his image of the dangling pull string of hope, biding their time in one scene and then revealing their wider setting: “Because hope is a pull string / we find in the dark only / when it brushes our face / in the wild-arm search for bare light.” Hope for the light is incommensurate with what it reveals, as the bare facts are incommensurate with the story of a life or a friendship. Perception and memory aren’t calibrated instruments: they allow intentional search to give way to inadvertent discovery.
Rebecca Starks, editor-in-chief