You certainly don’t have to be a woman to enjoy the enticing lines found in CALYX. For thirty-five years, CALYX has been bringing women’s voices to life within their pages. The summer 2011 issue is a compact collection of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, art, and book reviews. The writing is smart, remarks witty, and images powerful. In this issue, the reader will encounter a goddess cleaning out her purse, an aging couple who have lost both memory and close friends, and witness the destruction of cancer. Calyx features work from writers that is so poignant and striking, you will be thinking about their words for days.
Sarah A. Chavez’s poem “How Waitresses Walk Home” is one of the cleverest pieces that I have ever read. Chavez is able to turn a dark situation around, by way of her sharp and witty narrator. After one of the waitresses gets mugged and assaulted on the way to her car after a late shift, the others decide that they should be more vigilant. Shelly now carries mace and Norma a police whistle. The narrator, however, takes a different approach:
Me though, on my break,
I just work on my fuck you face
staring straight and dead-eyed
into the bathroom mirror, my chin tilted up
I try to look as if I don’t care, as if anything
they do to me doesn’t matter. I act
as if I have nothing to lose
and most days I don’t,
which makes this the best weapon.
Helen Klonaris writes a short piece of fiction that packs punch and personality into each line. The piece, titled “Angel and Me,” opens with the lines: “Church. Can’t breathe.” There is conflict between a young girl, exploring her sexuality late at night, and her religious upbringing: “The devil feels like dirt inside me. The devil feels like glista on the inside. The old Greek woman who lives beside the church told me you only live to be old if you’re clean. Live a clean life, she said, you get to be old like me.” The short sentences will strike the reader, again and again, as he or she continues reading, pausing slightly to savor each revelation.
Eson Kim took the creative nonfiction section by storm. The narrator and her cousin, Pree, become fast friends, despite their parents' objections. Together, these girls, though from different worlds, overcome insecurities, moral differences, and social class. When they get into an argument, the narrator is shocked by Pree’s reaction: “My sister and I bickered all the time, but I had no idea it would have this impact on Pree. As large as Pree was, she seemed to fold into herself, and each hiccupping sob fluttered the hem of her sheet dress.” As many of us so often do, the narrator struggles with figuring out the right thing to say. Too late, she admits: “I would have told her that on that little creaky ride she looked beautiful, with the cityscape appearing and disappearing behind her and the swaths of her dress stretched between us like a colorful sea.”
Katherine Malmo’s chapter “The Oxygenated World” is from her creative nonfiction book forthcoming from CALYX Books. It is nothing short of gut-wrenching. Kate is undergoing chemotherapy and promises the Greek god of fish that: “she [will] never eat fish again. Purely catch and release. Forever.” The reader is with Kate when she cuts off her hair before the chemo can claim it and as she undergoes the MRI that delivers promise and hope. Kate admits that she “hadn’t considered the possibility that chemo wouldn’t be fine,” and we should all be so blessed to live with that optimism.
The art section, folded neatly in the center of the magazine, should not be overlooked. Both the abstract and the more direct pieces are diverse and intriguing. Each artist encourages the viewer to take a break from all the words to simply see. Several mediums are represented, making it difficult to favor one work of art over another. Each, however, is strong and unique. Collectively, they have the power to evoke personal responses within each of us.