Although, with most magazines, I’m drawn in mostly to the prose (as a personal reading preference), Agave’s first issue held such strong poetry that I couldn’t help moving from one to the next, eager to see what the next poem had to offer.
Michael Sarnowski’s “Where Violence Comes From,” which starts, “The aisles of the grocery store are laid out like ribs / cut in two by a walkway of sternum,” perfectly illustrates the narrator’s motive and need to act out—though he does manage to suppress it. The aisles and items on the shelf help further the ideas: “This unopened can of black beans in my hand— // I want to send it through their teeth like a brick / through abandoned factory windows. We both know better.” In the end, the cans roll across the conveyor belt where they will later get “back, to use them in the ways they were intended / no matter how difficult, sometimes, that can be.”
James Valvis’s “Late Swimmer” is as chilling as the “late-autumn afternoon” in which the poem is set. As the trees have already discarded their leaves, “she stands before the pool, / long since drained of water,” and “launches herself into the frigid night, / into an emptiness cold as a new grave.”
In Danielle Gallo’s “The Market at Melchor Muzquiz,” the narrator finds that she can’t quite break the cultural barrier. In this place, the coins are plastic, and when she reaches into her pocket, “there’s no clink / no cool metallic weight . . .” There are strange voices, and broken speech, and the last image we are left with demonstrates the barrier: “He glances at me, shrugs and turns to join / the other beggars as I find a coin. / I hold my hand out, but it doesn’t reach.”
There are many more as well, and in particular, I’d recommend Judith Skillman’s “Cicada,” J.C. Longbottom’s “Defiance,” Laura Bernstein’s “Icebreaker,” Kenneth Pobo’s “Wandawoowoo Has No Heart,” and Cynthia Blank’s “The Bridge.”
But that isn’t to say that the prose, the photography, and the artwork aren’t also worth reading and pondering over. Without a whole lot of guidance on their submission guidelines, Agave Magazine surprises me with how well all the pieces work together and feel coherent. I look forward to seeing what this magazine offers with new issues.