The first story, Alexandra Seidel's "Bark, Blood, and Sacrifice," is a multiple-perspective story featuring a girl named Labyrinth who is simultaneously the labyrinth and the creature at its heart--and she's also connected with Inanna from Mesopotamian myth. You don't need to go to Wikipedia to refresh/gain familiarity with Inanna's mythic significance and stories, but if you do, then the happenings of the story have all kinds of resonances--but they're intelligible on their own in a dark surrealist-movie sort of way.
Sonya Taaffe's poem "Maudit," which comes next, lightens the mood--threatening the muse that thinks an artist must be in the grips of fever and decline to create:
Keep sighing of fevers, Muse, and I swear to you
I will find what it takes for a metaphor to catch cold.
In Sandi Leibowitz's poem "The Mourner's Mirror," the dearly departed refuses to let the living succumb to grief:
We argue. It takes hours. It's wonderful.
E. K. Wagner's "The Brief Day, the Long Evening" was one of my favorite stories in the issue, a re-visioning of Jack London's "To Build a Fire" in a post-apocalyptic nuclear winter. Jack London's story is also one of my favorites, and I enjoyed how this story played with its source material. (To begin with, we have an Inuit heroine and an android companion instead of a dog.)
"Deflation," by E. H. Lupton, a prose poem or brief flash-fiction vision, asks, "How long does it take a city to empty after the membrane has ruptured?" and captures the quiet of a ghost town/city/world.
"Deflation" is from the perspective of someone left behind, but yhe poem "The Escape Maps of Others," by J. J. Steinfield, is from the perspective of someone trying to flee--fleeing the beasts that are
for the escape maps
"The Mummy Tree of Shinjuku Gyoen," by Egg Johnson, has a self-conscious, affected storytelling voice that I found simultaneously irksome and enjoyable:
You know, I suspect, of tree rings. Who doesn't learn as a child that the cross-section of a tree recounts its years? Emi's daughter already knows this, as do her classmates. Dendrochronology is a cute idea with a--forgive me--kernel of truth, but misunderstands what it means to live openly across time.
The poem "Forgery," by Neal Wilgus, was perfect coming after--I'd have to quote it in its six-line entirety to show why, and that doesn't seem fair. You'll just have to trust me.
That brings us to the story at the center of the magazine, unfortunately the one item I really didn't like and also the referent for the cover image: "A Good Mother," by Tim Williams. Warning, women: if you suffered abuse in your childhood and consequently make bad relationship decisions as an adult, your son is probably going to grow up to be a psycho killer--just like that one loser boyfriend warned you. The only thing worse than a psycho killer is his mom, amirite?
The poem "Shore Skin," by Mike Allen and S. Brackett Robertson is beautiful, refreshing relief after that story. I loved it:
The waters don't run, they walk
lakes moving among us disguised
in pedestrian dimensions, tourist clothes ...
Even now, at this steady human pace,
they can't keep their pockets from filling with sand, smooth stones.
"Eyelash," by K. M. Kendrick, was my other favorite story, chronicling the wandering mind of the speaker, who's being chewed out by her lover for being an inattentive partner. Her lover has an eyelash on his cheek, and it's distracting her: "sitting there like a microscopic arm, curved up, begging to be picked off. Challenging me."
"Huraches," a second offering from E. H. Lupton, continues the meditation on an abandoned landscape:
Do you remember driving? ... Now I run past a thousand dead television sets, silent glass mouths yawning at darkened skies."
And the issue closes with Jennifer Crow's "And Some Born Dead." Not all stories have a happy ending, but in this poem on stillbirth, we're reminded that
Not every story has a happy beginning:
Some tales bend grief into a hard knot
behind the ribs
All in all, a rich issue, by turns mysterious, playful, horrifying, lovely.
Here is a link where you can get in touch to pick up a copy of the magazine--or to submit.
This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/919518.html. Comments are welcome at either location.