Puerto Del Sol is always inviting. The volumes flex and relax into the hand. Art wraps around both front and back covers. Inside, readers will find prose, poetry, and reviews from familiar and new writers alike. This issue of Puerto Del Sol contains the winners and runners-up of the Puerto Del Sol Fiction and Poetry contests, judged by Dawn Raffel and Julie Carr, respectively. Let me tell you, these ladies know how to pick strong, well-crafted writing.
Take, for instance, the very first piece in the issue, “The Flood” by Joe Aguilar, winner of the fiction contest. It is about—you guessed it—a flood, but not just any flood; it’s the type of flood that covers entire countries. The narrator, who is deaf, and his daughter, Sandra, save themselves from the ever-rising water by taking up residence in their boat. Of course, most awesome premises are only backdrops for what transpires between characters. Here, the flood acts as scenery for the tensions between father and daughter:
He vomited. They sat together by the toilet, in the cramped bathroom, chins on their chests. The inside of his body felt scraped raw from hole to hole. A place exists beyond shame or fear where the body is only a body. They emptied themselves. Its smell became their smell. Each time he woke up he touched her cheek. He remembered the morning he’d roused in bed and the wife’s face had gone cold for good. Sandra’s arm had grown as fat as her thigh and she could not lift it. When her eyes opened they looked opaque, like membranes had sealed off the irises. Sunlight refracted from the ocean and sparkled on the ceiling, and he could almost hear it, the harmonic from friction between the wavelengths, notes pitched perfectly over notes.
I especially like such phrases as “his body felt scraped raw from hole to hole.” I can’t imagine a more fitting description for such sickness. In short, “The Flood” kicks off an issue of smart and inventive prose and poetry.
Further into the issue, the poetry definitely competes with the tenacity of the prose. For example, “A Pact” by Mary Biddinger reads:
We’d lay our guns together
on the dresser, touching but not
overlapping. It was like the time
my hand slipped right through
a peach. Of course we didn’t have
guns. We were too fast to need them.
Difficult as it is for me to pick favorite lines from this poem, the above exemplify Biddinger’s genius for detail. It’s as if Biddinger wrote a story and then continued to whittle it down to its most decisive ideas and meaningful lines. “You said you could taste the Detroit / in every angle of me.” This line made me pause to imagine what Detroit would taste like on a body. Being a Michigan native, the idea of Detroit as a flavor absolutely makes sense. I can taste it now.
In short, Puerto Del Sol never disappoints, and if you need somewhere to invest some subscription money, I highly recommend this magazine.