The fiction and poetry in this issue of Harpur Palate seems focused on examining the familiar through an exotic lens, and vice versa. In “Squander,” Jenny Hanning does interesting work with her reverently Kafka-esque premise. Katherine, a junior high English teacher and mother, wakes up as the family cat after a fatal car accident. Hanning makes good use of the material. She allows the playfully named Katherine to truly be a feline (she gifts her former husband with half-digested animals), and balances this with observations provided by her residual human perception.
Patrick Carrington’s poem, “Candy,” examines the loss of sexual innocence, measuring each milestone in lime rickeys, spearmint leaves and licorice. In his other poem, “The Recipe for Sad Dotage,” aging is not indicated by wrinkles and a diminished memory. Instead, the passage of time is measured by the way things once were: “Baseball and war were magic / tricks gone wrong, / heavy things you carried with you / up the staircase of your life.”
In her short but potent poem, “To a Runaway Husband,” Meg Franklin examines the things we leave behind. In this case, the titular husband leaves behind “the flank of a deer, gathering bleary maggots.” The poem’s narrator has a plan for coping with the situation: her little girls will learn “a fly swatter’s arc.” Most of all, the girls will “know its slap as well as my face.”
Denise Duhamel’s poetry crackles and pops with an infectious energy. “A Poem on My Forty-Sixth Birthday” is a rewrite of the Gettysburg Address. (Would that we all felt more liberated as we age!) The joy of a birthday dinner is tempered with self-awareness. Duhamel’s narrator says that mothers have “struggled like Herefords, / have conciliated for us, far above our powder blush / and power suits, our addictive personalities or delusions.”