Apogee, only now in its second issue, looks for “the writing and writers that sit at a distance from the mainstream,” and from what I’ve read, the editors hold up their end of the bargain.
Sarah Thomas, in “Tongue-Tied (Untitled),” admits that she “like[s] black guys, and [she doesn’t] know how to talk about it.” A white girl from the south, Thomas feels foreign, as she says, “in my own town, in my own home, in my own skin.” She feels alienated and wonders, “Does the bigotry that lives in my family, in my history, just manifest itself in me differently?”:
What I’m trying to say is, I have forever felt foreign in my own state, in my own town, in my own home, in my own skin. My outside never seemed to match my inside. And having felt alienated by my own history, by my own body, is it any wonder I fled to the arms of a person who is the personification of alienation in the place where I’m from?
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I am standing before you, picking my scabs, to see if you will watch me bleed. To see if you’ll bleed a little too. Then at least I can know our insides are made of the same stuff.
Probably my favorite prose piece in this selection is Zalika Reid-Benta’s “What Happened in Hanover.” Because it is written in first-person, I’m unclear as to if it is fiction or nonfiction (no indication in the TOC), but either way, it reads with a close connection to the narrator. As a young girl, she visits her grandmother in Jamaica and is traumatized by a severed pig’s head she finds in the freezer. But the way she deals with it isn’t by showing fear; she returns home and tells all of her classmates and neighbors an elaborate lie about how she killed the pig herself. It roots itself in the narrator’s need to tell stories, and the writing is rooted in a retrospective look that still keeps close to the “current” events:
Girls in my grade brought their younger siblings to me to be frightened and amazed, and at the playground, during lunch time, boys started inviting me to play Red Ass with them, whipping me with the tennis ball as hard as they whipped each other. I did my part to maintain my position. Whenever a mouse scurried across classroom floors to a hole in the wall, I bit down on my lip and stayed still instead of jumping up on chairs and desks like other girls. If a teacher caught me in the middle of a misdeed, I didn’t deny doing anything wrong, like all of the kids around me. I puffed out my chest and claimed my misbehavior like a prize.
From the bird imagery (“. . . two mallard corpses, floating / towards her on the river’s surface, feathers black and filthy”) to the two lines that rhyme (“. . . wondering / how she could tell us the news. ‘Whatado? Whatado?’ / Birds asked from the trees. ‘Screwed! Screwed!’”), Brian Patrick Heston’s “Eviction Notice” is powerful. I’d also recommend reading Ej Koh’s “Yearly Service Check for your Mind.” The first line will elevate your view of yourself; the second will bring you back to Earth.