This was the first issue of Zone 3 I’ve read cover-to-cover, and I was pleased with what I found. It’s an impressive, well-chosen collection of poetry and prose. Beginning with the narrative nonfiction, in “Puttanesca,” Kerry L. Malawista finds comfort in a special dish her friend made and brought to her following her daughter’s death. It is a straightforward and powerful piece that addresses and celebrates a simple gesture of humanity in the face of tragedy.
In his essay “The Fierce Green Fire,” Don Lago relates a story about Aldo Leopold that I’d heard before. It’s about how as an eager young man Leopold partook in a hunting party that came upon an aging female wolf swimming across a stream to her overjoyed pups. The men in the hunting party, including Leopold, opened fire on this happy reunion scene. When they approached the dying wolves, Leopold poked with his gun at the she-wolf, who snarled back, not surprisingly. Leopold related seeing a “fierce green fire” fading from her eyes. It was at this moment that Leopold began to understand the tenets of what would become known as ecology. Losing that “fierce green fire” meant losing the top predators in an ecosystem, thus dooming it to the subsequent problems we now know only too well.
Diane Kraynak’s essay “Lazarus” relates an experience the author had as a nursing student caring for a premature baby that had literally returned from the dead. Kraynak effectively uses the story of this fragile infant as a framework to personalize the steep learning curve associated with entering this difficult profession. Following the essay is an interview with Kraynak in which she discusses the essay’s development and some thoughts on its underlying themes.
My favorite poems in this issue come from Alex Lemon and H.L. Hix. Lemon writes short two-line stanzas packed with strong imagery, such as this one from “Whittling Your Legs Into a Rocking Chair” (amazing title, by the way): “The truth is being alive boils / You down into a toxic mush.” Hix is a bit more verbose and more literal, though no less powerful, as in these lines from “But Nothing Visible”: “It’s true we’ve gotten good at measuring, / but measuring can’t salve our ache for the measureless.” His opening lines all seized me, but none as tightly as this one from “As If We Were, As If We Were”: “I create lozenges compacted from listenings-in.”
This issue’s fiction loosely focuses on characters trapped in desperate situations of varying forms and levels, some self-imposed, others not. Alexander Weinstein’s magically realistic story “The City of Labarinto” relates the story of a man chasing after an elusive woman, leading him ever deeper into a constantly changing city from which he finds he cannot leave as easily as he entered. In the noirish tale “Who’s Afraid?” by Chris Gavaler, an aspiring teenage actress flirts with her movie monster-esque coworker at a second-run movie theater. Finally, in “New World Hero,” Dennis Vannatta’s narrator Sal leads a lonely life of singular focus, watching nightly over his neighborhood pizza place, once a terrible scene of racial violence that Sal is determined will never be repeated again.
If this outstanding issue is any indication of the usual fare served up in Zone 3, then I will be waiting in desperate anticipation for the next one to be published. Highly recommended.