This issue begins with a simple question, but Susan Nisenbaum Becker’s “What If?” is a complex amalgamation of blessings that might just change everything, but that ends with a rather sobering wondering. For instance, she writes,
What if you stood on the beach
and blessed all the dead, especially
the bloated seal at your feet
held out your arms like a conductor,
blessed the luscious air covering you like a robe,
shouted over the great orchestral exhalations and inhalations.
each tympanic sigh, belted your blessings light years
into the constellations – could that change a strand
in the pelt of this sorry world?
It’s a poem that makes you think about the world, our roles in it, and the emptiness that religion sometimes leaves with us.
Pamela A. Galbreath’s nonfiction piece is a sobering tale, as well. In “Losing Ground,” she writes of a mother’s drug-addicted son. Before the outbursts start, and after Ron, the son, is arrested for possession, he offers her a startling proof of her complicity:
“Remember how you and dad were so glad when I joined the church’s high school youth group? Remember how you nagged me to stay with them?” Pause. “Guess where I got started on drugs?” Pause. “Remember when you’d come downstairs, you’d always say it smelled good?” Pause. “I sprayed Febreze, Mom. I had a lighted joint down the side of the sofa. I stood next to you in the kitchen, totally stoned, and you went on and on about al dente pasta. You couldn’t even see.”
Gary L. McDowell’s poem, “Back Home,” leads us in the opposite direction. A more hopeful poem, he writes, “Travelling backwards on the train form Kalamazoo to Chicago, / I solve a quadratic equation, a crossword puzzle, / my marriage.” And later, McDowell notes that, “Romanticism will always have Her cynics.” It’s a lovely poem, and I loved the way he compared his marriage to a crossword puzzle – complicated and sometimes unsolvable, like so many wedded problems.
Lori Compton’s nonfiction piece, “Lost” is one of those tales that leaves you wondering what exactly is going on between the driver and the narrator, a husband and wife. When they stop on a dark road to help an old woman, the husband, Joe, asks if he should call her son. Terrified, she says “No […] If you call my son–” and lets the sentence trail off, unfinished. Back in their car, the narrator wife tells us that
I can’t help but envision how crushed the old woman would be should Joe turn from friend to informant. Somehow, in the process of leading Ann home, Joe has transformed himself into the old lady’s protector, and I can’t bear the thought of his betraying her trust any more than I can bear the thought of how devastated I’d be if he should die and leave me to grieve for a lost spouse – again. On the other hand, if I hear that something horrible has happened to Ann tomorrow, or that she’s caused some damage, possibly run over a small child, will I be able to live with that?
There’s an overt tension in Compton’s voice, but also an unspoken tension between her and her husband. It’s wonderfully vague, as some of the best stories are.
In Katie Spillman’s story, “A Family Affair,” we learn of the narrator’s mother’s knowledge that her dead husband’s mistress has died. We can’t help but be ‘gleeful’ in the way that the mother is. Spillman writes,
Today I’m up early […] and ready to go to my father’s mistress’s funeral. He’s been dead for eight years, but a few days ago my mother remarked that maybe he and Lorraine [the mistress] will be happy in heaven together. Mom relishes the fact that she is older and yet survives. That’s the whole reason she’s going to this funeral, to gloat, to revel in her own breathing, her own still beating heart.
It’s a tenderly written tale about an affair, but it is one with a kind-of happy ending. The writing here is spectacular, the sort of which absorbs you into the character’s lives, and that’s no small feat.
Linda King‘s poem, “Most Days The World Is Someone Else’s Story,” is the last peek I’ll allow for this issue of Lumina. It’s a fantastically ambiguous poem, written with obvious enthusiasm.
you were at tragic figure
howling through the lullaby,
through motherless days and nights.
following the river.
Paper lantern in hand. Pool of light
to the stars.
In the Editor’s Note, Lillian Ho muses that she is struck by these words from the founding editors, “In this debut issue, we have attempted to create an appealing journal of many voices engaged in an exciting colloquy of words, ideas, and aspirations.” Ho writes that, “I believe that we have stayed true to its original purpose.” and indeed it has.