“I want to live in Fictionaut,” I exclaimed when I first joined four years ago. I was startled and seduced by the quality of work and the bravery of its producers. The vibrancy and enthusiasm of the community was palpable. The whole thing was like a giant, bewitched slot machine, churning out small prizes and jackpots and lighting up the reward system of my brain with the only risk being the commitment of time required for reading and commenting. Considering the potential detriment to my family and work life, and like a lot of folks writing in this space before me, I participated in only an occasional binge-like fashion. So when I was asked to take a turn at the Editor’s Eye I accepted it as a challenge to develop a habit of daily discovery, something to work in to my busy, modern lifestyle like five servings of fruits and vegetables. And it has been good sustenance, indeed.
Because what I had assumed would be a daunting deluge turned out to be more of a measured trickle, I managed to read everything that came in over two weeks. Here are four of the dozens of writers who made an impression on me as I kept refreshing the “Most Recent” tab.
“Ex-Lover” is only 17 words, so I won’t spoil it by quoting it here. If brevity is the soul of wit, Gary’s piece is the soul of a wistful punch in the gut. It’s real, it’s sad and it does what I wish more poems did: get in, get out and leave it to the reader to imprint his or her own experience on the page (which, unless you’ve been cloistered all your life in some sort of religious devotional arrangement – and then perhaps, even so – you will be able to do).
Something a bit more finely textured is his piece, “Christmas.” Here are details of place, and an emotionally distanced observation of two lives intertwined, their possibilities limited by a gulf of time that Gary only dimly illuminates using a past that’s referred to in a speculative future tense. This fluidity is deft stagecraft set off by a holiday tapestry backdrop festooned with blue Christmas lights, diamonds and gold buttons.
Reading “Strays and Lies” left me with a kind of literary road rash. It’s visceral, hard and important writing in that it articulates in a singular way something many readers will relate to first hand. Felicia repeats a refrain about elemental purification. There is a hamster wheel of sorts for those who have ever suffered “A man-shaped hole in my atmosphere.” How do we reclaim our power when it’s repeatedly appropriated by the language of the oppressor? By relearning her “ABCs,” and in reclaiming that appropriation, things becomes dizzyingly recursive for the narrator. For all the “doing” in reaction to the things that are done, she becomes desperately mired. It’s like struggling in quicksand.
I will keep all my bones and I will dance until
I am clean again,
until I am numb. The wine doesn’t
make me whole but the vodka
purifies me like fire purifies water.
He does not help me with
anything. He is the proof that the devil
can jump from the card and bind, bind with loose
knots and then convince me that they are tight
and I am stuck like I am waist-deep in mud.
How do we measure life? In “Dream(ed) Life,” Foster muses on the conventions surrounding time, and how much numbers of years can’t account for. It’s suggested his protagonist has discovered an alternate to the year as the standard of measure for fulfillment, but convention is sometimes needed to help us navigate in life.
So years were used, and secret numbers were kept secret.
The big measure of his life happens seems to happen nearly at its center staple, were it a book. But on what shelf would we find such a book? There’s a woman who starts it all, there are the many dream vacations, there is the resignation to age and repose and, finally, passing. There’s a life, and there’s the story of the life. There’s the implied question: are we the dreamers, or are we the dream? And the bigger question: does it matter? Trecost approaches this with a gentleness for his main character and a joyful sense of play regarding time, although “this is a sad, sad story. Sorta,” we are told in the Author’s Note.
If, when you die, your life indeed does flash before our eyes, that great existential film strip could resemble Gary Powell’s “When.” Depending on how you’ve lived your life, of course. Regardless of whether you’ve carried on an extramarital affair, you’d presumably have flashes of your highest highs, your lowest lows, and some of the more mundane moments between. And if not an affair, you could probably pinpoint some other choice or pivotal moment that precipitated the cascade of events that has led to the moment you find yourself in. If not, maybe you need to get out more. Or at least vicariously live through Gary’s characters as the moments of their lives are ruthlessly cataloged and placed under gleaming museum glass. Grief, ecstasy, guilt, libidinous urgency, joy…every color of human experience is in splendid representation here, but Gary’s list-making provides these raw experiences without much in the way of editorializing. It’s like a Biblical litany of “begats” that have left me at turns bruised, jubilant, bemused and devastated. And it is all so, so rich.
Sara Fitzpatrick Comito is a poet who lives in Fort Myers, Florida where she and her husband are urban farmers and beekeepers. She does marketing and public relations writing for work, and also gets to do a fair amount of writing about food and restaurants. Sara’s poetry has appeared in places such as Blue Fifth Review, THRUSH Poetry Journal and A-Minor Magazine