Ever wonder how journal editors make decisions about work to feature? The Take gives you a glimpse behind the scenes at Mud Season Review. Here, we feature one single poem or flash fiction piece that caught the attention of the editorial team, apart from the signature poetry portfolio or fiction piece in our bi-monthly issues. We hear from the author about the inspiration for his or her work, and we hear from a co-editor about why the poem or flash fiction story stood out.
a secret / about razor blades. / I am / a historian on grief / but still can’t / trace
depression / in my lineage. / An acquaintance / gets a high on carving
/ constellations over / his birthmarks. / Says it’s a delicious way / to remember
agony. / Have I ever / learned agony? / Is it asking / “when will you be back” /
when expecting the death of tomorrow? / Is it watching / how-to tutorials on /
writing elegies / to Ophelia? / I am just so young / so naïve / hopelessly /
why do you sit stiff / before your mother? / Do you, too, feign / intimacy with
those you consider / strangers? / I am half-forgotten / someone who possesses /
a love for the unknown / but bashfully shy. / Will you wait for me / in the next /
century? / I’m quite lonely / and tired of / Shakespearean folklore / but I’ll make /
an exception for you. / I doodle sonnets / with bubbles / in the bath. / I want a
pretty death / just like yours. / Ophelia / I’m terrified of heights but / I think I’m
falling / faster than I ever could.
the seeds of grief / maybe / they’ll bloom into agony.
“Cartography” was inspired by something my mother told me. She told me the women in our family carry this legacy, this burden, of depression partially due to abuse inflicted upon them by men. I then thought of Ophelia, a woman driven mad by the two defining male figures in her life, and sought to weave these narratives together.
From the Poetry Editors
Ashley Hajimirsadeghi’s poem is constructed with such sure-handed use of form. She experiments with line breaks, punctuation and language. She layers casual self-awareness with a maturity that’s rare in an emerging writer. At home in the dark emotional territory of depression, she’s able to shape nuances of remembered agony, learned agony, and the ironic image of agony in bloom. A poet who can open with ”razor blades,” befriend Ophelia, then soften her tone briefly “with bubbles/ in the bath./“ displays a range that makes this piece a virtual force field.
Contrary to what the newsreels say I feel
cold on the inside I came West to plunge
my body into the Pacific They call me Death
Toll Rising This is not my first name My real
name was whispered to me by a paper-dry
leaf hopping & dragging like a flightless bird
She was my mother These are all my cousins
I am holding my breath for: domestic cats
alpacas bears pigs ponies squirrels & ashen
dogs You cannot tell the jackrabbits from the
pumas from the goats inside of me We are all
one species of smoke Deadliest in History Now
the people in shining jackets call for hoses &
buckets of foam over my head They send hot
cell signals through my belly & I watch them
the whole time They do not recognize a son
chock full of animals If I waited on the ridge
for the proper light would they finally see me
call me down by my first name I want to hear
the words from my fathers mouths: Drought
our soft child stop picking at the floor &
sweeten into the big blue ocean you were
meant to be But life is so unforgiving Say
you want the water & you become the sky
This poem was born out of photos of the fires in California this past year. I found myself particularly affected by images popping up in articles of animals backdropped by flames and smoke. Then I started to wonder why my empathy worked that way: Why was I quicker to feel for the dogs, cats and trees than the actual people? The wildfire’s persona sprung from these thoughts about how we regard animals and the inanimate.
From the Poetry Editors
The persona in this poem speaks to us through literary devices such as animal symbolism — goats, rabbits, and pumas — and grabbing imagery. Evan Nicholls demonstrates a skill for language with the surety of his voice as well as his rhythm. We fell in love with this line: “But life is unforgiving Say/ you want the water & you become the sky.
Aaron El Sabrout
King Krule & Mexican Street Sounds & Medicine Tea
Leaves barely shivering in the thickening stillness,
just to show that they’re alive & they drink too.
The tree with the knobbly spiked flower dick
doesn’t question its embodiment–it just bodies.
It is just a body. What if my body was just a body?
A motorcycle revving in the alleyway/
a masculinity built on gasoline.
Who does gender serve?
Not me, on the toilet at 4 AM
in the blue moonlight. Not a body
wracked with sweat shivers, not
the chub rub that welts slickly
between sticky thighs.
A hudhud cries midday, that danker morning,
calls me back to dusty Maadi lunch-as-breakfast
bisilla & bouftek & cucumber spears. “I was born
in seconds, do you feel me?” Somehow I cobble
this identity together in objects: this mug from
the grand canyon, this bathrobe from Winners.
But they fall apart, rotate in & out.
I too rotate in & out of bodies, out of selves,
first Pokémon t-shirt, sombrero & banana,
now notebook & paint jeans & glasses,
On the beach the wannabe Maya head
and the somewhere-maybe pyramid
are still sand, sloughing into the sea.
The water remembers even if our
instagram accounts forget, that everything fades.
This poem, for me, is a kind of excavation, a matrilineal map. It’s a meditation on the body as/through/with language and landscape. It’s a way of healing and (re)membering the past, my past. The body is an archive in that it carries memory and history. I believe we can transfer knowledge intergenerationally, storing patterns and responses for survival. Our bodies hold multiple possibilities, and memory lingers within and around us.
From the Poetry Editors
Aaron El Sabrout offers us a stunning, lyric meditation on the function and habitation of a body. The sheer range of images and the originality of El Sabrout’s exploration of the body drew our editors in immediately. Poetry Co-Editor Aurora Nowak says: “‘King Krule…’ contains many trending pop culture references, but at the same time keeps the examination of self at the center of the poem.