The allure of the Spring 2012 issue of Salt Hill starts with an enticing cover, a black and white illustration by Aaron $hunga where a character named “Mr. Rhombus” is told to get ready “to enter Xenocave.” More of $hunga’s graphics detail a fantastical story in the concluding entry in Salt Hill. As if that graphic wasn’t enough of a warning about the kind of fiction contained in this issue, the editors’ note reads, “The twenty-ninth issue of Salt Hill is evidence of how capricious and flimsy our perceived world is, how gray and clouded the separation between phenomenological reality and the science fictions looming behind it. Or in front of it. The fantasies stuck between its dark matter. Either which way, the work in this issue pursues out-there dimensions.” Perhaps because of this dipping into strange avenues, the best work in this edition is the poetry, as well as amazing artwork done in ink on paper by Faye Moorhouse.
Karyna McGlynn’s conversational “Russel Says Everybody is Aubrey” starts off, “R&I sit among the wreckage of my last relationship and wonder what to do with it.” It seems that Russel felt washed up at 24, and now at 34 is totally lost, or “hot but hopeless, a smart cookie who’s just depressing as shit.” The narrator doesn’t want to be in the same predicament as Russel, who hates his ex-girlfriend Aubrey (everyone hates her), but Russel thinks they’re all going down together, saying, “I’m starting to think that everybody is Aubrey.” Aubrey is “a 30-year-old stripper who works at Neiman Marcus. She has an MBA.” The poem’s flat tone of multi-directional unhappiness is quite piercing.
Caroline Crew’s “the animals have lived here longer” is a harder to parse poem, with ghostly language. She writes,
please start creeping behind doors
at least then I won’t be imaging you
some of the small energies
I put into working other shapes
into softer geometries
The narrator references the ambiguous, unknown sounds of a house, but much else of the poem is undefined, beautiful, open language.
Tony Mancus’s “the knot you worry is your skull shaped into a square and populated with minutes” has the most memorable title in this issue, and the rest of the poem does not disappoint. Christy Crutchfield’s “Parking Lot Poem” is another dense but spare linguistic turn, containing lines like “and my thoughts / should have been destination / like radios fuzzing back / like beer can debris blowing by.”
Jeff Alessandrelli’s “Poem with Limbs” is fragmented, image-laden piece. One of the more absurd entries is a piece of short ficton: Ulrich Haarbürste’s “Roy in Clingfilm Conspiracy,” about Roy Orbison, his glasses, and clingfilm.
The art in Salt Hill also stands out. In addition to the otherworldly story by $hunga and Moorehouse’s eerie work, there are some more comical drawings by Rudy Rucker. My favorite features a number of boxy, ancient computer monitors or TVs stocked on top of each other, floating in space.
This issue of Salt Hill is an amazing detour from realism. The writing is unique and striking, and the ideas original.