“No easy answers” is the watchword for this issue.
Devin Murphy’s short story, “Off Dead Hawk Highway,” concerns a fire at a Girl Scout camp, terrible injury to one camper and equally terrible guilt to a camp employee who blames himself—though no one else does. Rejecting a tidy conclusion of healing and forgiveness, it ends as the employee wanders off “into the gray—where in the evening and beyond, there is only a loose interpretation of how we should go about living.”
Steven Belletto’s memoir of a harrowing charity trek across India, “Rickshawing for Dummies,” likewise avoids a neat completion, because that would mean “checking India off the list—much better to wander Bihar, land of the Buddha, to bring a fever down with some meds cadged from the rival pharmacy across the alley . . . to admire a sadhu sleeping naked in the train station, to disappear elsewhere.”
Every piece of prose in this issue, in fact, refuses the comfort of closure. To experience how satisfying it is to be challenged in this way, read the short stories “Crush” by Barrett Hathcock and “Sunken Mariner” by Graeme Mullen.
Top off the experience with Mathew Gavin Frank’s “Rapunzel, Clara Peller, and Other Beasts of Burden.” In this memoir of a troubled couple seeking a place to lay their heads in Oaxaca, Mexico, the “dust blows upstreet, and we follow it, this apparition of the Earth and entropy, aimlessly as always into the village, our own tracks not deep enough to leave a lengthy mark, erased even in the lightest of breezes.”
Among the poets, I call your attention to Mary Jo Bang’s contemporary English translation of Canto XXIX of Dante’s Inferno, and Elton Glaser’s “Down on the Farm,” a stark evocation of what it’s like to be young, oppressed and futureless in rural America.
Don’t miss Christina Cook’s witty “Messier 31,” in which astronomers finally locate God at the far edge of space and “christened him Spiral / Galaxy M31 (NGC224) type Sb. God pronounced this naming / good: he’d always wanted to rid himself of his himness.” And David Wagoner, still publishing at 85 (thank Messier 31) has two poems here. The remainder of the issue is filled with fine work.
Cimarron Review is one of those treasures among lit magazines—a publication whose commitment to high standards keeps us honest.