In an introduction to this issue’s featured artist—Caleb Cole—Joshi Radin discusses how Cole takes old group photographs and whites out all people but one. “We focus on this individual,” writes Radin, “plucked from the crowd. Confined by the white space where companions once crowded, she is alone even in the company of others.” Take, for example, “There Yet,” in which you can see a young girl’s blank expression, barely visible. It may have been lost in the photo originally, blocked out by the other children. Each of the photographs emits loneliness, solitude. “As a group,” Radin says, “They are all alone together.” The pieces of writing contained in this issue speak that same message to me.
“Tchaikovsky, 1944” by Cassandra de Alba is a sestina that wonderfully demonstrates this idea:
Her footprints are muddled in the bloody snow.
The ballerina wants only to dance
but these bodies and trees
are such poor partners. The trees
lean crooked like bad teeth.
She is trapped in an awful dance,
avoiding rats by lifting her feet
well over the dirty snow.
They have started to eat bodies in the night.
In Jenean McBreaty’s fiction piece “Warflower,” the main character Olga fights to stay alive as food rations are cut. “Death was stalking her.” Thinking only of staying alive, Olga forces herself not to think about the others: “I want nothing that might keep me here. No friends, no teachers, no love.”
Brad Abruzzi’s “New Jersey’s Famous Turnpike Witch” is a creative story about a woman who lives in hiding on the turnpike, coming out only in her witch costume to give a show as she “traffic-surfs.” She seems alone in the world, only having communication with those she calls her Engineers. In attempt to keep her rating on Crimedog.com, she decides it is time for another show, but this time something goes horribly wrong. Never meaning to harm anyone, a young boy ends up crashing his car because of her. Caught between the desire to stay anonymous and the duty she feels to take care of the boy, Alice eventually decides to get him to the hospital—with help from two guys that call themselves the Impalers—but Alice rarely leaves her turnpike because something always bad happens when she does. “Think baby steps, she tells herself. Just stay conscious, try not to hurt anybody.”
Scattered with more fiction, poetry, and art, this issue melds, tying the lost souls into a collection where they can all be alone together.