Starting the issue is Sarah Kilch Gaffney’s “A Geography of Grief,” in which she takes readers to White Head with her and her family after the death of her husband. There’s beauty in her description of the area, one that makes it easy to see how she can begin to find peace when picking berries and exploring tide pools with her daughter, while still feeling the hollow ache of loss.
Asha Dore’s “Words with the Hospital Chaplain” is in a similar vein. She’s brought back to childhood while her “Dad’s brain is busted,” with memories of burying a dead baby bird beneath the front porch with her brother, of filling the space with magnolia petals. She ties past to present, her writing somber and haunting when thinking of burying her father beneath the porch.
Sarah Malley delivers a swift punch to the gut with “The Mother of Pentacles.” Recounting the suicide of a childhood friend, Malley’s honesty is what really makes this piece. Admitting laughing at jokes about suicide, Malley and her friends are human, as human as the guilt they feel when wondering if they could’ve done more to stop the death of their friend. But their laughter is what brings the piece together to a fulfilling end.
“Airplanes and Heartbreak” by Julie Wiencek explores—as the title suggests—heartbreak in a piece carried along by flights and memories. “Enough” by Carroll Sandel will leave readers’ skin feeling “sandpapery and cold” like hers while she remembers the abduction of her niece and the subsequent unraveling of her sister and brother-in-law’s relationship.
This isn’t to say that all pieces in this issue will bring on the waterworks. Sean Gill brings some much-welcome humor in “A Temporary Shelf-Life,” recounting the period of his life he spent in temp jobs to stay afloat:
The two-dozen high school dropouts and the two-dozen temps lined up for work. With all of us dejected and clad in polo shirts, it felt like a school assembly—not the most pleasant flashback to be experiencing at seven o’clock in the morning (or at any other time).While setting up shelves at a new bookstore (take a moment to appreciate the title’s pun), he learns some lessons about temp jobs from his coworkers, some of which leaving him guilty and ashamed.
Nicole Quinn’s “We Killed a Nun” is another piece that shouldn’t bring on any tears. As the title suggests, a nun dies with her final words “You’re . . . killing me!” lobbed at four little girls in her classroom. While there are serious aspects (like being the only two black girls in the whole school and what that means for the main characters), “We Killed a Nun” is a light, quick read with a title that begs readers to take a look.
With compelling creative nonfiction, articles, and interviews, readers will find themselves entertained, educated, and engaged, meeting Hippocampus’s threefold mission. And if, like me, readers want more after they’ve finished this issue, the Most Memorable category is the place to go. The section is a collection of each issue’s most memorable pieces, and it’s difficult not to be absorbed. Go grab your box of tissues, already, and take in everything this issue of Hippocampus Magazine has to offer.