J Journal takes a journey to the dark side of humankind – the criminal side, the enforcement side, to those who have been brutalized, taken advantage of…it uses literature to pose “questions of justice, directly and tangentially.” Each poem, each short story brings a situation laden with irony, and leaves it unresolved, leaving the reader to search within, find the discordant inner chord that has been struck and bring it back into tune.
It has about two dozen truly good, varied poems, hitting aspects of justice from any and every possible angle. Hard-hitting poems, like Donna Reis’s “Rage” chill the reader:
is a woman
knowing every ridge
of a man’s body
only to have her affection
for two decades of soft sag
splayed on a couch
Searching poems, like Chris Early’s “Change,” pose striking questions: “To the news anchor who sensationalizes me for Nielson’s, / To the politician who incarcerates me for votes, / To the citizen who vilifies me but never asks why.”
The real stars are the short stories, such as “Gulf Island Ferry Road” by Michael Wayne Hicks, which begins “Little Joe hit Buster from behind with a three-foot section of galvanized steel.” Hicks expertly leads the reader’s sympathies down a winding path and stops short of telling the reader what to think and feel. “Little Stones” by Mary Ellen Sanger, which takes place in a prison, has two women bargaining. However, the real currency is not money, but hope and trust.
These characters are real living persons like you and me, only they exist in the realm of the printed pages and come to life when you begin reading. Opening this stylish-looking rag is not just a distinct pleasure, it is a nourishing experience.