While Juked is primarily on online literary journal, the editors call for longer submissions of fiction and cull through poetry subs and put together an annual print issue. This issue features the winners of the fiction (Marianne Villanueva) and poetry contests (James Belflower) as well as other selected work. Also included is Kelly Spitzer’s insightful interview with Claudia Smith regarding Smith’s literary struggles and successes.
Poetry finalist Shawn Fawson’s series of poems puts into words the pain and sadness of dealing with the slow loss of a mother to Alzheimer’s. In “Lines of Possible Fracture,” Fawson writes:
To find her, I make myself
a stranger, come to her like an open cage.
But nothing I try coaxes her inside.
Her life belongs to another story,
the one where rain shudders to snow
and covers every bend of the road
as if in search of something. What
does it matter now – she doesn’t feel
strange or cold. Why else does she
wander barefoot into the storm
if not to name what’s left of our
world before the next act of erasure?
A fiction contest finalist, Catherine Brown’s story entitled “Two Sisters” is the tragic story of two sisters who, although very different, meet the exact same fate at the same time. The story is told in fragments that could be pieces of their broken family put back together for one last telling, like a memorial photo collage pasted together for a funeral. Perhaps the saddest part of the whole story is concentrated in the section about the 80th birthday party of the two sisters’ mother, Katie, who is in a home with Alzheimer’s.
There is no one left to host a party for Katie. The grandchildren bring balloons and flowers and bottles of sparkling apple cider to the nursing home, and put pink crepe paper streamers around the windows in the TV lounge, but nobody comes. The uncles and nephews don’t want to make another long drive so soon after the funeral, and the cousin who drove Katie’s twin sisters from Texas is not available. One of the aides has made her a chocolate cake, but Katie forgets again and again that it’s her birthday. She falls asleep that evening with dry crumbles of icing at the corners of her mouth.
Not all of the work in this issue is so deeply sad. Craig Snyder’s slipstream story about the near future entitled “Rise of the Mentards & Flower Boy” is dark and humorous. The main character, Flower Boy, lives in a future where “chemicals are invading the food and water” and “women are giving birth to Mentards.” But the fact that Seattle is overrun by Mentards also plagues Flower Boy. This would not be a problem if Flower Boy did not like to sit in the park and read novels as much as he did.
Some Mentards are writing novels. Flower Boy is startled by this. He realizes he has made a serious mistake. Two years ago he met some Mentards and tried to help them. He gave them some novels but the Mentards tore them up, and some Mentards tried to eat the novels . . . Now they are writing novels on notebook computers. Flower Boy thinks this is bad. He wonders what will happen next.
What happens next is “He buys one of the Mentard novels . . . He reads the Mentard novel. It is terrible. Flower Boy gets very upset.” Seeing all of the Mentards writing novels, Flower Boy “feels responsible” and yet he is seized with the urge to write a novel, too. Meanwhile, Flower Boy tries to find a way to correct his “serious mistake” before any more “terrible” novels are written and published.
This issue of Juked contains 32 total works of fiction and poetry in a wide range of styles, plus an in-depth interview. Readers of any aesthetic can pick up this magazine and find more than a few pieces that will move them, and hopefully work that will draw them from their comfort zone to see and appreciate something new. The print issue is well worth the cover price for both the quality and quantity of work, and yet it is really an added bonus to the new writing constantly being published on the online manifestation of Juked.