Where have I been for the past thirty years? The older I get the more frequently I find myself stunned by the breadth and depth of my absolute cluelessness. Not knowing about Willow Springs is definitely my latest admonishment. If issue 63 is any indication, Willow Springs’s thirty year publishing history is hard earned and well deserved; from cover to cover, the work in this issue is above and beyond.
The cover itself features the eerie artwork of Mel McCuddin. A pink humanoid figure stares dead eye direct at the viewer, his long spindly arms held high above his head. The viewer’s eye follows these arms to the top third of the page, and suddenly realizes the black background above must be an opened garage door, or maybe the rear end of a truck, the light streaming in from behind, placing us, the viewers, inside. What are we doing in here? Who is this person who has discovered us? Is he trustworthy? Is he here to release us? Or has he discovered our hiding place? Completely subtle in its terrifying ambivalence, Mel McCuddin’s cover art is an excellent introduction to this issue.
Inside a series of poems: Chard deNiord, Kim Addonizio, Dag T. Straumsvag, Paisley Rekdal, Ray Amorosi; beautiful poems, pastoral, shocking, prose-like, and reverent. Nearly every page in this issue is enthusiastically dog-earred; throughout, poignant lines are ticked off with pencil. Listen to the beautiful alliteration in Timothy Kelly’s “Broken Spoke”:
I’ve explored joint lines, listened
for crepitus, coaxed the offending limbs
to bear a bit more weight. And
the patients, allowing touch, gradually
drop their guards, begin to breathe, to speak,
to delve, without prompt, into intimate,
burdensome things: painful bankruptcies,
incarcerated cousins, a telescope trained
on nudist nextdoor neighbors, an ex
having sex in Vegas with an East Indian
patent lawyer and a tank of nitrous oxide,
recent, compromising falls in the bathroom
that have necessitated the call
Hear the heartbreaking voice in Rachel Mehl’s “For Julia, Who Loves Horses”:
The truth is Julia, I never wanted children either.
So why do I find myself spending Saturdays
playing Life with you on the floor of the house
of a man I do not love, you who always choose
to be a blue peg, in a red car, with a college education,
while your father nurses his hangover on the couch.
And visualize the horrific images in Darlene Pagan’s “The Names”: “Who could ever again drink water / in such a place and not see a black bloom of hair/ at the bottom of her cup or the doughy face / of a marble eyed girl?” Issue 63 also includes two engaging interviews with poets Lynn Emanuel and funeral director/poet Thomas Lynch.
The fiction is above and beyond exemplary with Robert Lopez’s beautiful, odd, and disturbing meditation on “Uniforms,” Matthew Cashion’s ironic, funny, and sad “Last Words of the Holy Ghost,” and, in my opinion, the absolute ultimate highlight of this issue, Joseph Salvatore’s hilarious take on E Cup breasts, derivative academia, and our ongoing self consciousness with our bodies and our selves. While every piece of writing in this issue is outstanding, Salvatore’s riff is the pinnacle for me, an unanticipated bonus in a land of more than plenty.