The editors of The Ampersand take a firm editorial stance from the get-go: “Give us God, give us god, give us the gritty, oily humanity, & make us laugh. If you can make us cry, do so. If you want to lament the loss of pets or parents, do not.” On the chance you need someone to draw you a picture, they follow this up with a chart, “The Ampersand Flow.” The flow chart reminds writers they must be “good enough” to be included in the journal and warns if you write about puppies, your work is sure to be rejected.
The editors’ selections for this issue conform to their editorial preferences. Fiction writer Richard Radford provides the oily humanity in “And By Thy Sword Shalt Thou Live,” which begins: "Jake and Esau Grunke had been drinking malt liquor in the Laundromat all afternoon before they spotted the large diamond earring by the trashcan.” Caroline Swicegood’s short story “Blood on the Carpet” contributes the gritty:
On a Tuesday night, a CEO killed himself in his corner office on the 29th floor. He watched the windows of the other skyscrapers darken one by one, then put the acuminate edge of his pocket knife against the pulse in his throat, pressed firmly, dragged it across the vulnerable skin to the other side, and sat down in a lotus position with his shoes tucked neatly under the couch before toppling to one side.
Jim Walke provides laughter with his story “Dropping in on Paradise,” which begins: “Madge looked out over scum-green Strom Thurmond Lake to the Gated Community across the way, where her husband of thirty-nine years had shacked up with that widow harlot.” Strom Thurmond Lake! That widow harlot!
Rebecca Webb gives us god: “Some mornings I wake up / And my body feels like Palestine- / Internal, endless war, but every cell / Remembering I was once Holy.” Poet James Jason Dye gives us God in “The Dramatic Tragic Epic Comic Poetic of All Time”: “In the beginning with God. / Here before anyone could read.” in “The Phenomenon of Perception” he also gives us anti-God (or is it anti-gods?):
The retired old farts of theology go back to
the old mold. Highly religious locusts
funded en masse by basilicas and pompous
pew-pew-pews, stealthy wealthy onliest souls
who deem figurative investigation disposable.
J. Bradley’s “Another Poem about China” makes me cry: “When I finally go to China, / I will pollute the Yangtze / with the ghosts of my / unborn children.” I think Curt Eriksen’s “Such a Nice Night (of the Impossible Point of Tangency)” might count for oily humanity as well:
Will she ever remember
sprawling upon that rug
and licking her lips,
embarrassed by the incurious stares
of the star eyes,
not realizing that they
have seen it all
before and before and before
There is a lot of shit here, too – literally: “I was never one to write about sunsets or birds, / to be honest that shit bores me to distraction” (Steven Marty Grant in “Urbanality”); “It takes a lot of bullshit / to grow a rose” (the first lines of Rebecca Webb’s “Ancient Heat,” the opening poem in the journal’s poetry section).
There are no parents or puppies. There is, however, a 1976 Datsun 280Z (in Eric David Lough’s “El Negro Albino”). And I thought I was the only one who remembered that car. But don’t worry, there’s no sloppy sentimentality here:
his name was Reggie
el negro albino
prince of the waxing moon
Wild Irish Rose
Mad Dog 20/20
the surveyor of Bazetta road
and the craziest
east of Mosquito Lake