|Art by Sarah Webb|
“As Tender Feet of Cretan Girls Danced Once Around an Altar of Love” by Julian K. Jarboe (6710 words)
This story seems to swirl around memory and myth, loss and age. It follows a snake woman who was alive during Minos’ reign on Crete, who witnessed everything that happened there and got away into the larger world and yet who doesn’t remember it as real memory, who has had to piece things back together from stories and accounts of the time, the myth—the truth lost somewhere and perhaps not important after all except for the yearning feeling she has about this past, about Ariadne, about love and belonging and family. It’s a story that builds its mood quite well, which structures itself around a lack, the missing part of her life that Ariadne inhabits. The voice of the story is rather bitter but not yet tired of life. Instead, there’s the resilient hope that somehow the main character will find what she’s looking for, will find out what really happened or else will pick the version that she likes best, but whatever the case she will keep on living until she tires of it. I like how the story captures her power then, her spirit, alive and yet living with this loss and this erasure, that her story and the story she’s lived through has been taken from her, in many ways stolen by those who are willing to sweep in and claim that their version of events is “real.” The narrator’s whole culture, her world, has been boiled down to stories told by other people, and she’s lost the ability to know what is lies and what is truth, is stuck hoping to be able to feel the truth just by seeing it, and it’s a prospect that doesn’t exactly play out. And yet through that she refuses to let that defeat her, refuses to die quietly just because she can’t find her way back to the truth under the story. There is still the story, still the mood and the promise of it, and it’s lovely and wrenching and difficult to follow the narrator through her transformation, forever circling what she might never reach. It’s a beautiful story that you should definitely check out!
“If I Were a Sailor” by Kathryn Allan
This is something of a strange, sing-song poem about the sea and about longing, about family and about wanting to belong. For me, at least, the piece follows the narrator’s drive outward from the life they were brought up in, toward the sort of rebirth that the sea can offer, wanting to be washed clean and yet be a part of something vast and deep and meaningful. And I like the flow of the poem, the music of it, one part chanty and one part spell and one part daydream. The poem is title and is about the desire to be a sailor, and not really about being a sailor. It’s about the drive and the desire to leave, to go, to have this romantic isolation that might allow for some relief and some healing and some space for the narrator to figure themself out. Because, to me, the piece is a lot about uncertainty and about loss and about the narrow confines of expectation. There is a chaos to the narrator’s life, their brother enlisting, their parents pushing them into a new role, a sense that things are slipping beyond the narrator’s control, that there is a storm that is assailing them. They are young, and there’s perhaps a touch of the immature in the poem, a fantastical idea of the sea, of what being a sailor might mean, the hope that it would mean more than just having a dangerous job and doing grueling work. And while there’s perhaps the hope that this feeling the narrator has, that the world is ending, that they have to do something, anything, to escape their situation, will pass with age and time, I think there’s also confronting that it’s no less real for happening to someone who’s young, that there is still this immense pressure and they feel like they’re lost, in need of some way to contextualize what’s happening to them and their family. And that dreaming about the sea is their way of coming to terms with what they’re feeling, and what they might be able to do. It’s a complex piece, and certainly worth spending some time with. A great read!
“end at the skin” by Melissa Moorer
This is a rather strange piece and definitely an epic for a poem. But it does have the feel of a poem, fluid and about breaking through skin, about expanding, about reaching out and growing. So it’s very fitting that it’s a poem that resembles in many ways a short story and an academic paper and a number of different forms but remains, somehow, a poem. It features a narrator or narrators caught in a state of plurality, a we/I entity that is studying other creatures, trying to learn both what it is to be singular and what it is to be of a different scale. And I love how the piece opens up this idea of scale, that there can be so many parts of a greater whole and the whole can be in some ways sentient while each of the smaller pieces also bears some sense of sentience or at least the appearance of sentience. The narrator watches as a creature interacts with itself, drawing parallels to cells within a body, not everything always clean or harmonious but a mix of violence and intent and aftermath, the narrator following, learning, gathering, consuming. The text in some ways is a translation, an attempt to capture a feeling that is wholly alien to human experience and yet familiar, captivating. I love how the piece moves, the notes and the asides and the driving move towards this want to know, this desire to translate. Because something is lost in the translation and the narrator knows this and pushes forward regardless, offering the reader a feeling of what it is like to have shattered, to have been made aware of existence on an entirely different scope, one where our individual minds seem to wink out and become just part of something larger, more intricate, and perhaps more powerful and beautiful but perhaps not. As I said, it’s a strange piece, but it’s a fascinating exploration and it’s very much worth spending some time with. Definitely a piece to check out!