It may seem counterintuitive to begin with the end, but that is where I want to start with one of my favorite pieces. The last narrative in the Winter 2015 issue of Jabberwock Review follows a father, who, after the death of his wife (who appears to him post-mortem as a physical manifestation of his subconscious much like the ghost of Hamlet’s father), frames his drug-addicted son for grand larceny in hopes to save him from his addiction. In her prose, Sonia Scherr explores how our losses define us while remaining visible like stars in the night sky, where the stars are dead long before we gaze upon them, yet are “not a reflection or a picture, but the living star” that we see. The stars, like our losses, leave “A Hole in the Universe.”
Karen Kao explores the loss of self in her fiction “Words Fly By,” a beautifully short piece about a narrator who depicts her experience of a tragic accident that left her cousin brain damaged, forcing her to start all over. The prose examines how self-identity is measured against others, and how quickly that self can be lost and replaced, becoming a ghost of oneself like “words under the ice we could all see but not touch.” Yet how does one define their identity against someone who has been stripped of their own?
Rounding out the death-centric fiction section is “We Recruits in Granny Pearl’s Army” by Jerry Whitus. He opens his light-versed narrative about children’s last rebellion with their dying grandmother with the thought-provoking line, “Once a person’s dead they’re put in the ground or else burnt to ashes, so you end up dirt or smoke, one tied to the earth, the other rising to heaven.” Whitus demands the reader to make the decision on their own, while exploring the path the decision leads each of the children.
Most notable from the issue’s brief nonfiction section is Kendell Newman Sadiik’s “The Man Behind Him.” Toying with the idea of out-of-body experiences and coupled with the undercurrents of a future predicted by H.G. Wells, Sadiik examines the many definitions of alien, both human and extraterrestrial, in her piece about what it means to be othered in a foreign land: “There’s been quite a bit written on what Wells got right about the future. In my experience, though, it’s the abiding doubt, that other side of the dream, that feels most true.”
Kicking off the winter issue is Bryn Homuth’s harmonious poem “I See My Own MRI,” in which the speaker compares their own skeleton to the frame of a baby grand piano featuring lines such as, “These are the melodies of protoplasm, / chiseled from the deep strata of composition, / excavated, assembled in score, alive” and “an instrument with its own viscera: / [ . . .] a sinewy soundboard/ hammer and string guts.” Each word is placed like notes in a chord, the poem acting as its own sonata.
In “The Elements,” Derek Palacio explores the way we are eroded before we are shattered, the way “we ebb before we are hollow,” the way “A body / suffers its going long before it sags: / we’re bent before we are brittle.” The poem engages how we as people, as well as places, experience this process of emptying, of coming back to nature.
With a father facing the numbing consequences for his actions in Fred Melton’s “You Knew,” a couple grappling with the ramifications of a backyard bear in “When We Were Hardcore” by Linda Michel-Cassidy, and a woman struggling with the demands placed upon her by family, society, and religion in Jen Edwards’s poem “Tent Revival,” the Winter 2015 issue is the perfect accompaniment for those chilled starry nights. Whether you are measuring the distance of relative luminosity, or moving in the same direction but keeping distant, the Jabberwock Review is sure to linger long after the sun comes up.