This month, I had the enjoyment of reading the 2018 issue of The Meadow, a literary and arts journal published by the Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada. This annual publication pulls together poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and artwork to make a collection that really encompasses great stories and representations of life, both in Nevada and throughout America’s heartlands.
A story I really enjoyed was “An Alligator’s Favorite Treat is Ice Cream” by A.C. Lippert. While the story does present a rather gruesome recounting of an incident in Alabama on the “Festival of Wax” day, it is also a reminder that there is always more than one viewpoint on any situation or event. The author claims to have pulled the story together by talking to many people to get their perspectives and then tried to create the “truest” version of the story possible. The author also makes a point to remind people that alligators aren’t inherently bad or aggressive. He shares the history of domesticated alligators, which started with plantation owners trying to scare slaves. However, he is quick to point out that “The plantation owner could only hide the alligator’s silliness and tenderness and intellect for so long.” In the end, the author hopes that other people will come to realize that alligators are not bloodthirsty, but they can be great pets—if taken care of and treated with a healthy dose of respect and understanding.
Also found in this issue is a truly poignant long poem by Joseph Fasano, called “The Crossing.” With heartbreaking precision, the poet shares the details of so many people who have passed on from this world into the afterlife, connecting each death through the perspective of the narrator, who faces his own sad struggle. Sprinkled among the poem’s other stories, we are gingerly fed the story of the man and his wife who is dying:
we live again. Say
we carry ourselves like music
through the ruins, and it wakes us
alone with its going, and we give in
to the beginning it is singing,
and it carries us back to this world.
Wow! If only we knew that our passing would only bring us to a new beginning, to live again, how amazing would that be? It would be very powerful to know this, and would also ease so many souls, like those shared in this poem.
“Pleasurable Death” by Jhon Sanchez tells a similar story with a completely different tone. Here, the story follows a cab driver, Xavier, who recently found out that not only does he have a terminal illness, but he has no way to pay for treatments, which means he will die slowly and painfully. However, he lives in a world where people pay exorbitant amounts of money for a “Pleasurable Death”: a concert performance that helps people die peacefully and with joy. The cab driver cannot possibly afford this for himself and is unable to deal with the future he faces as a result.
When an ungrateful elderly man steps into his cab for his ride to his Pleasurable Death, Xavier loses control of himself. What follows leads him down a very dark path to an unexpected ending, leaving readers to consider the differences between the rich and the poor—how some people can afford to put off death as long as possible with money or ensure that their death will be less painful, while those who cannot afford it will face an early and often much more painful death. It’s a stark commentary reminding us that a small thing like “money” can make a really big difference in quality of life (and death).
In “Réve” by Cécile Bralier, the main character faces the fear of potential death at any moment in the most imaginative and achingly painful ways possible every time she looks at her adopted son. She fears at any moment that something will happen to him. She pictures when he is older how he might die at his restaurant:
In my mind’s eye you will pass out in the kitchen, and they will try to revive you. I will see one of your employees shouting for help, but I will not hear him. [ . . . ] When the paramedics will take you on the gurney, I will scream a scream too fragile to travel outside of me.
All of these fears build up in her, but every time, nothing has happened. He is fine, and safe, and she knows “you would hold me tight if you knew I had such visions.” Her fear is that of a mother—a mother who is holding onto something so tenuous, so potentially fragile, that the loss of it would break her, and bury her. How heartbreaking to constantly fear this abrupt end to life at every step!
On a very different and much more uplifting note, Tom Larsen’s “Phone Call” tells a more whimsical story about a man who answers a wrong phone call that just keeps calling back. The person on the other end thinks he is someone he isn’t and just keeps calling, even after he tells her that he isn’t the person she is trying to reach. Despite his efforts to convince her otherwise, he ends up being pulled into her story, faced with rescuing her from her very lost position in life. This makes me think about how you never quite know where a stray phone call might take you if you are open and willing to listen!
There are so many more stories and poems in this issue of The Meadows that I can find enjoyment in its pages for a long time to come. I would highly recommend this magazine to anyone looking to find and read from new authors and poets.