Foreword by Alexandra Davies
It’s so good to be back while everything around us is going wrong. Perhaps it’s a distraction—stare at art and avoid the news. Everything is in decline! Perhaps this is the answer to our problems. Not the external, for we cannot singularly repair the people suffering around us, or even the places and countries falling to fragments. No, it’s the existential repair. Whether we’re stuck in silence or drowned out by terror, there are still voices. Steady voices. Voices with words that shoot across pages and read so sweet that the page might as well be made of honey. Voices that do not know you but recognize the sensitivities that bind themselves around all our bodies. Small releases from loneliness. It’s so good to be back with this issue of Leavings—to hear these voices pour their stories out of the page.
Danika Stegeman LeMay begins with “Astral Projection,” a verbalization of fluidity-- or lack thereof in relationships. Water cannot survive in a desert but can cause destruction. Maybe it’s desire, the unattainable, that causes destruction. Ajay Sawant follows with “Old Day Hide Space.” I am drawn and stuck by this cascade of images. The food and its actions, the body and its unrehearsed movements. Then there is “Your Mother Dies” by Noa Saunders, an etching of grief scorched into the pages. I’m burnt by the undercutting lines “finding her like finding water damage was not-long-expected / after the new year.” To write about the grief of another is not a simple task, but Saunders paints the scene so precisely like a flaming Rembrandt.
Apurva Raghu’s “Hair” is as relatable as it is honest. It’s the attachment, the way one brushes the hair out of their face upon reading this and pauses to wonder what it feels like to lose something so seemingly permanent. It’s the fact that we’ve all witnessed this story but never attain the ability to stop the sorrow. Clara Burghelea’s “Prologue” follows Saunders in the examination of grief. We are present for her suffering, the acceptance of loss that comes quickly and leaves itself a mess on the page.
I am pulled by the pairing of Lucas Jorgensen’s “Cruelty” and Ọbáfẹ́mi Thanni’s “Bloodseeds.” It’s nature—the vibrancy in the face of brutality. It is growth, the boy turning into something new. Something harder. While Jorgensen points out the chaos of boyhood (does the salamander understand its sacrifice?), Thanni sharpens the image (can the roses hear the hurt the thorns cause?). Then there is Despy Boutris’ “Self-Portrait as Creek,” a statement of want in a space that does not allow for giving. Wanting to go back to a space that does not exist. Boutris’ desire to be something so simple is universal in these unrelenting and stressful times.
Aysha Qazi’s “Traces of Sand” is a tremendous testimony to memory. The myth-making terror in these words creates a portrait of a suffering land and people. I’m in awe of the lines, “they said if you move, you’ll shatter / from the core and cracks will make/their way to your edges until there is / nothing left but shards of history / and their puncture wounds.” To move away from a homeland is to take the broken pieces of memory with you. Philip Kennedy-Grant’s “Shakedown” starts at the edge of the sea. There’s something satirically Fitzgerald-like about his characters; the sails and boating clubs, the popped polo collars and martinis. I couldn’t drink with these characters, but maybe you could.
At the end we’re left with three poems. Jack Jung’s “Carnival” is a movement of sound across the page. A textbook example of consonance. Nicole Callihan’s “grief being somewhat symmetrical” rips apart the bond of parents and children. We see shades of grief transform to shame at the ending edge of the poem. Its brutality recalls Sarah Rose Etter’s The Book of X. Finally, there is Samantha Liming’s “Escape.” Escape from what? The humdrum moments of life, of the capitalism blues, maybe it’s the fear that we’ll all be stuck in our terrible apartments for the rest of our lives? I see myself in this poem. I see most people I know in this poem. The only way out is through imagination, a photograph that gives way to daydreams.