2019 (Volume 31)
Welcome to our 31st issue of The Briar Cliff Review. Right now as I’m writing this note on a cold January morning, the government shutdown is still going on, and we see people struggling to pay rent, heat, car payments, childcare, and food. We are living in a time of crisis, and with this crisis comes fear of losing everything. Loss brings loneliness as people shut down inside and keep their fears, hurt and anger to themselves. Fittingly, in this issue we see the themes of loss, grief, loneliness, and reminiscence.
I am reminded of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989). When John Wheelwright’s mother is accidentally killed by Owen, he grieves. “When someone you love dies, and you’re not expecting it, you don’t lose her all at once; you lose her in pieces over a long time – the way the mail stops coming, and her scent fades from the pillows and even from the clothes in her closet and drawers.”
In our issue we have the essay “Yevgenia Antonovna” by Elizabeth Paul, who shows us a lonely old woman who stayed in Osh despite her losses. “All her girlfriends, she said, had either died or moved away after the end of the Soviet Union.”
Loss on many levels is seen in “Reparatrix” by Andrea Lewis. Set in Dublin in 1933, sixteen year old protagonist Marianne must take care of the baby because her mom suffers from depression. But tragedy happens, and “they sent me north to save my soul.”
In “Essay in the Key of Grief,”Alison Townsend writes, “One death calls out to another” as she faces the memory of her dying mother and now her favorite dog. “I’ve been looking death in the eye since I was nine years old and I’m just not reconciled, damn it.”
JenniferStern’s story “Diaspora” reveals the loss of their homeland when Becca and Reuben leave war-torn Caracas to live with their daughter in Chicago. “Your own city, you left for dead.”
In “Spiritual Walk to Hinhan Kaga” Heather Craig-Oldsen reflects as she climbs the seven miles to what was known as Harney Peak. “I am ever aware of my waning fire as my inner energy looks more like lingering flames at the end of a campfire.”
In Jack Schuler’s “Benson and Other Small Towns,” the speaker sees the dying town and “the grave of my great-grandfather, / and no one comes to clear it.”
Lauren Coggins in “Leaving Ireland” focuses on departing and the loss and loneliness that accompany it. “High and westward now” she see the things she leaves behind such as “the bones of the dolmen / picked clean.”
The speaker in Frank Paino’s “Lazarus” recounts “the ragged lullabies of women wailing” and “the shape of the man within / who either hung between two words / or none.”
We explore loss and reminiscence in “Velvet” by Ian C.Williams. “I find myself looking at the tundra / of my father’s hands... and here I am, wearing my adulthood like a deer’s antlers wears its velvet.”
Congratulations to our contest winners and their works, which deal with similar themes of loss and trauma.
Poetry editor Jeanne Emmons said,“Kateri Kosek’s ‘I’d hoped to finish this poem before it came true’ explores the anticipation of ‘finishing’ on several levels – global climate change, seasonal transition, and personal relationship. The poem calls upon us to cherish the unseasonable moments of warmth and beauty (‘windows brightening / into unfamiliar pockets of sky’), even as those moments are ‘wanting to be lost.’”
Fiction editors Phil Hey and Matthew Pangborn said,“The story ‘Drink It Dry’ is a powerfully and meticulously told tale of devastating loss. It allows its readers to connect, through its richly textured description, to the strange customs of a foreign land. But it also, perhaps even more importantly, explores an all-too-common and shared experience of grieving, and the necessary finding of new resolve.”
Nonfiction co-editor Paul Weber said,“In ‘Trauma Is Our Country,’ Beverly Tan Murray writes personally of the physical and sexual trauma that is pervasive in our society. Her sharp, vivid imagery and reflective responses allow readers to internalize the subject and respond to it themselves.” Additionally, nonfiction co-editor Ryan Allen wrote,“It’s about how we fall apart and get put back together again, and it shows us how the body is both a wellspring of strength and a site of vulnerability. It forces us to courageously confront our past in order to more fully live in our present.”
Our cover art, Outside my Window, by Omaha artist Larry Roots, is not a dark piece but a celebration with vivid colors. “I think of the canvas as a window into another reality where the action of paint and stimulation of color are a joyous symphony.”
In conclusion, we know literature and art transform loss and grief into something meaningful and beautiful, and help us transcend it. Perhaps leafing through this issue, reading and reflecting on the many poems, essays, stories and art works, will bring you some respite, and, most importantly, hope.
C0VER: "Outside My Window"
Larry Roots / oil on canvas
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Rachel E. Hicks
Rachel E. Hicks, Baltimore, MD, has been published in Little Patuxent Review, St. Katherine Review, Gulf Stream, and other literary journals. She is an associate editor at Del Sol Press and has lived in eight countries – most recently China.
Beverly Tan Murray
Beverly Tan Murray, Austin, TX, is a Pushcart Prize nominated author whose work was featured in The Southampton Review, AWAY Journal, The South China Morning Post, and others. Her writing addresses themes of immigration, exile, gentrification, and life in liminal spaces.
Kateri Kosek, Sheffield, MA, has had works published in Orion, Creative Nonfiction, Catamaran, Terrain, Crab Orchard Review, and other journals. She teaches college English and mentors in the MFA program at Western Connecticut State University.