I can’t do much of a better introduction to this issue than Editor Jessica Bixel’s intro, so I’ll let her words speak as she invites you into the issue like she’s inviting you into a haunted mansion: “all manner of death and destruction, breakups and breakdowns, hook of rock and hank of hair. The orchards are swelling, the wolves are watching, and the city is haunted—everyone is waiting for you. Enjoy your stay.”
And you’re easily invited into the atmosphere with Renee Emerson’s poetry. “Lucky” starts the issue with, “A hank of hair caught in the high weeds by the river. / A premonition, tangle in the burrs and thistles, / on the first day of a new year.” And “Stories” ends, “All of our stories are ghost stories. / Your shadow a gray visage, surfacing.”
Joseph Goosey’s poem starts off like a joke: “A baby doll and a life expectancy / barge into a bathroom stall.” And Colin Dodds’s “The Great Alchemist” contains a few lines you just have to laugh at: “he felt a disappointment // like when the dinosaurs went to buy pants / and learned that the stores / no longer carried their size.”
Carol Guess’s and Kristina Marie Darling’s “Health Insurance” is an entertaining commentary on, well, health insurance. After the narrator gets health insurance and reaps all the possible benefits, she admits “I received a letter explaining my deductible. My deductible was one million dollars.” The phone call to the insurance company that followed results in hypnosis: “When I emerged from what felt like a refreshing catnap, it was winter and the yard was covered in snow. I had lost my job and with it, my health insurance. My prize was a penny in a Cracker Jack box.”
Daniel M. Shapiro contributes a piece called “Archibald Discovers Air” in which Archibald gets a balloon at a birthday party he takes his niece to. The balloon was blown up by none other than John Wayne. Although the children aren’t impressed, Archibald is. He saves it for as long as he can: “He contemplates showering with the balloon but worries hot water might spoil it. He places it on the kitchen table and eats his fruit salad next to it.” And as John Wayne dies, Archibald is convinced he has the celebrity’s only remaining breath.
Meg Johnson’s poem portrays a woman who doesn’t know what she is looking for, perhaps what she is looking for in a man:
Let me tell you what Reduce,
Reuse, Recycle means. It means
running out of boyfriends.
Dating four guys named Chris.
I called the last one Joe.
Here there is plenty of poetry to invite you in for a stay. Step through it slowly and carefully, breathe it in deeply, and try not to disturb who’s watching you.