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Ascent – January/April, 2013


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January and April, 2013

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Kirsten McIlvenna

Ascent has been featuring essays, fiction, and poetry since 1975. The website is updated regularly, every couple of months.

Ascent has been featuring essays, fiction, and poetry since 1975. The website is updated regularly, every couple of months.

Jennifer Jordán Schaller’s essay “Doin Time” (published in January) reflects on her jealousy of her father’s new family, one that he pays attention to and takes care of. He wasn’t the best father to her growing up, and then went to prison—though she isn’t quite sure why. She struggles to accept that her father has changed, and she sometimes wishes to just stay mad at him to make him understand how much it had hurt:

Forgive and forget: what does that even mean?  Is forgiveness trusting the person you know will let you down again and again?  Is forgiveness not feeling anger toward the person who has hurt you again and again?  Or is forgiveness acknowledging the humanity of someone who has made bad choices?  Sure, my father is human.  Yes, he made mistakes. But am I forgiving him when I cut him off, not to spite him but to spare myself pain?

Gary Fincke’s “The Selfishness of Bravery” (published in April) is an excellent fiction piece set back during the Cold War on the night of the young narrator’s prom. The same day he is supposed to have his special night, taking his date with his late father’s 1955 Fiat Spider though he doesn’t have a driver’s license, there is talk of Cuba arming their missiles and the U.S. bombing first: “At that particular moment I knew the meaning of ‘bittersweet,’ because I’d driven that beautiful red two-seater up and down our street . . . but now, a few weeks from getting a license, I might go up in a mushroom cloud before I ever drove that car farther than the Miller’s house . . .”

Theresa D. Smith’s “Threshold” is a beautiful poem on the subject of loss. When even others have forgotten her voice or face, “even the exact quality of her finger touching your shoulder . . . is perfectly vivid.” It is reminiscent of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, in which Orpheus is allowed to take Eurydice back from the underworld as long as he doesn’t look back as she follows him. The poem reads: “Don’t turn around. If you keep going, she’ll follow you. If you forget / the need to see her face. You remember it well enough already, anyway.”

But don’t have any worries about applying that same rule to this issue of Ascent. Do look back; read the pieces again and look back into the archives.

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