The first fiction in the issue is “All Square” by Gary Fincke. The story is narrated by a moody teenager—one who maybe has earned the right to be moody. His alcoholic mother has recently moved out of the house to live with another man. The narrator’s father, a teacher and an old jock who’s fond of sports metaphors, isn’t in a great mood either. When a student assaults a female teacher he beats the kid up and is fired for his efforts. The narrator gets that his father is trying to help him grow up right and how he shows that is what the story’s all about.
The next story is “Mother” by Nona Caspers, in which a lesbian whose partner has recently left her invites her mother to come help her grieve. While looking for a new apartment for the woman to move to, the two women learn about each other in startling ways.
My favorite piece in this issue is “Limpieza” by Lorraine M. López, whose work I’ve seen and appreciated before. Here we have Marina, who has risen above her origins. She’s worked hard, earned a degree and is now teaching, all while her relatives and ex-lovers freeload and press her for help. The banter in Spanglish is often funny, although the most significant tension of the story is certainly not. Marina is a wonderful character.
“4th Street, Coffee Shop” by David William Hill is intriguing in the way that the scene it describes is repeated several times, each time with different emphasis, revealing more and more about the relationship of the two characters (and the fly that menaces their shared blueberry muffin).
I’ll only mention one poem in this issue: John Poch’s “Pecans”:
“Into my neighbor’s empty yard I steal,This is memorable because every other line in the 44 line poem ends in “pecan” or “pecans” and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. (The other lines in each quatrain also rhyme.) And it’s also memorable because although I don’t have pecan trees, I do have many walnut trees and thanks to “prudent squirrels” I frequently find walnut tree sprouts where I least expect them. Plus I met John at Sewanee a few years ago.
First light, to plant another tree. Pecan
This time, whose fertile nut a prudent squirrel
Forgot in the dirt below my big pecan.”
Next up: The Journal