First volume, first issue, what should one expect? A group of locals got together to celebrate their neighborhood, what should one expect? A group of writers put together their own journal so being published became easier, what to expect?
What you get is the first copy of Barstow and Grand (Issue One, Fall 2017), and I’m sorry I didn’t find it sooner. There’s a slight touch of the zine concept, and if you’re not familiar with Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where the journal finds its origin, it’s okay because the neighborhood will welcome you. The poetry, fiction, and nonfiction are not a collection of grad school experiments and classwork; they’re polished, professional pieces that speak to our memories and our hearts. While the authors are all somehow connected to the geographic area, the ideas and experiences are not.
No retiree can resist Bruce Taylor’s poem “Only My Bartender Still Calls Me Professor”:
No new shoes in years, nor often wear any.
More sweatpants than slacks, t-shirts than ties.
Don’t bother with a haircut, forget to shave
or check if my nose is snotty or my fly zipped.
[ . . . ]
in my heart where the clouds still raise
new questions and the oak leaves still
skitter across the delicate first ice,
and I still have to study the stars
to write my report to the moon each night.
And certainly, we can see ourselves in Andrew Patrie’s “On The Fragile and Finite”:
Imagine if times of crisis,
were to pass
as quickly as the night
and every good thing:
the health of our parents,
the innocence of our children,
the two of us, together,
were to go on and on,
have no end
The nonfiction provides us with equally compelling themes, such as Ken Szymanski’s memories of connecting with his father, affected by age and deteriorating health:
Three years later, I became a father. Dad’s mind was fading with dementia, and I took my newborn son across town to their house as frequently as possible. [ . . . ] I wanted to be able to one day tell my son that, even though he doesn’t remember it, he went to a baseball game with Grandpa Szymanski. Maybe have a picture as a souvenir.
The fiction adds a change of pace with such pieces as Ryan Purdy’s “Sandwiches,” an intriguing sequence of events in the life of an abused and unappreciated woman.
His hand, a hardened product of construction, shot from the darkness, and snatched her arm. She could feel the cruel fingers dig into the meat between her muscles, and knew the handprint’d be there in the morning, a purple and blue souvenir from a trip she’d wanted to end. She relaxed her arm. To struggle meant trouble.
[ . . . ]
While she put the sandwiches together, she listened to her husband and his friend bullshit in the living room, while the stereo played on. When she plopped the sandwiches down in front of them, Lucy counted six beers between the two men. Sleep would soon overtake them both.
[ . . . ]
She listened hard over the thump of her heart, and only relaxed when she marked two separate snores. She hefted the suitcase she’d packed the last time he got shitty.
There’s more of course, in all three categories, but it’s reinvigorating to find a grassroots effort to publish quality work from a variety of authors with a common bond who come together to support and encourage each other. Our thanks to the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild for sharing with us the works of their writing community.