Per Contra's fall issue offers a varied sampling of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and visual art.
My favorite piece of fiction comes from Al Bray: “The Replica City.” An old man visits Warsaw, where he was born. At the train station, he imagines he sees his parents, though he doesn’t remember what they look like—he was separated from them as a child and raised in England. He suspects that they were both killed by the Nazis. “Since childhood, he’d had a particular image: the two of them, carrying battered suitcases which they wouldn’t need, his father weak and hollow-cheeked from hunger, his mother a slim, defiant wraith. He’d struggled without success to replace it with the image on the old postcard from the train station.” The whole story takes place in Warsaw as he struggles to connect with his past: “When something precious is taken from you, you want it back, one way or the other.”
In Cynthia Mitchell’s “Mama’s Stockings,” the narrator discovers that her mother is secretly—or later as we find out, perhaps not so secretly—in love with a man that is not her husband, not the narrator’s father. This knowledge drastically changes the narrator's views: “that was the year my mother stopped being my mother. . . now the things she said and the advice she gave me came, not from a mother, but from a woman with a secret.”
Most of the poetry reminds of nature, the “tops of tall pines,” “birds migrating south,” “white nebulae of weeds,” “the dry husks of dead beetles.”
In Darcy Cumming’s “Death Angel,” the death angel is “our tardy visitor, / all bones and a fringe / of red hair”:
her claws listlessly fold
above legs that stretch and glide
then snap back their quick hinges.
Under her expensive black dress
transparent wings begin to unfold,
nether parts in parchment casings
swell. Death Angel stands
apart. She feeds on our voices.
Each of the pieces in this issue offers unique insight, different views. Per Contra’s intent is “to offer more than one way of looking at the world,” and with this they succeed.