In this issue of Nimrod International Journal, the theme of “Leaving Home, Finding Home” pulled at my heart strings, reminding me of homes I have found and homes I have left. I spent days pouring over the pages of this journal, unwilling to set it down, each piece reaching out to me in happiness or in sadness, painting stories I could dive into.
My favorite short story was by Eric Schlich, titled “Merlin Lives Next Door.” As someone who read The Once and Future King many years ago and always appreciated the story of Merlin, I simply couldn’t help but love this story. It was a semi-finalist in The Katherine Anne Porter Prize for Fiction literary awards and tells the story of Geoffrey Nolava, a copyeditor determined to live a quiet, well-organized life. However, he finds Merlin moving in next door to him, a time traveler and wizard who catapults backward and forward through time in chaotic bursts that make Geoff’s head spin.
Throughout Merlin’s travels in time and space, he returns frequently to visit his neighbor and talk about life, the past, the future, or simply nothing at all. Geoff slowly starts to realize that maybe his life could have taken a different path, but he chose not to go down that path, choosing instead to carve out a quiet, solitary life in the place he calls home. When Merlin is gone, Geoff misses him, misses the chaos that Merlin would bring into his life, no matter how much he loathed it before. This story reminds me of why we need to take our lives into our own hands, to take the chances that we may be too afraid to take, and to live life in the present, letting the fluidity of time flow over us as it moves inexorably into the future—whether or not we are ready for it.
Another story I loved was “Passage” by Torrey Crim. In this short story, we are faced with a woman who has moved out of her comfort zone with her husband and child, and suddenly finds she is becoming a new, very different person. She struggles to understand why she suddenly feels this way, why she cries randomly for long periods of time or feels such fear over the safety of her child. In this story, there is a truly beautiful moment when she is lying in bed, crying, her hand on her son’s head, his hand on her head, as they stare at the ceiling “as though he’s watching cartoons,” “each of us feeling each other’s primal heat at the top of our heads, like everything rises up and into each other.”
It isn’t until she has a conversation with her mother, one she has been putting off for weeks, that she realizes that her family, and maybe all women, can get pulled “into the relentless, chaotic current,” but her mother assures her that “it will pass, that joy will take a turn in me.” In this story, I am reminded of when I have felt great sorrow, how it would come upon me suddenly without warning and I would find myself in tears, unable to quench them. Like all periods of sorrow, they do pass and, as the narrator shares, focusing on family, on joy, on home, on the little moments of pleasure and happiness can help us get through them and into a better place.
One of the many poems that intrigued me in this issue was by Ken Haas, titled, “The Sound a Key Makes.” In this poem, we see all the possibilities that can come when a key opens a door, all of the “could bes” or “should bes” that a key can indicate. My favorite stanza of this poem was:
When it’s your wife,
whose spiral kisses on your back
speak to the unspoken,
whose eyes never look away.
Whenever a door opens in life, it can bring something beautiful or it can bring something terrible. Even though there is the chance that opening a door can bring the terrible, we have to keep opening those doors so we can find the beautiful moments and cherish them.
I found a poem that focused very nicely on the theme of leaving home by Mary Block, titled “After it Rained.” This poem was a semi-finalist for The Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry literary award. Here, the narrator asks for forgiveness from her hometown for leaving it, all the while thanking and appreciating every piece of her childhood and what was her home. She sees her home differently than others who might see images from her home in the media or on TV, how “[t]he people there scrape a life off a mossy rock” and “built a town that could withstand the tide.” Even if we leave our homes in life to seek a new home somewhere else, a little part of us will forever appreciate, admire, and love the home we grew up in, even if we never intend to go back.
While there are so many other poems to consider, Mitchell Untch’s poem, “The Opening” pulled at something deep inside me. Here, the narrator has clearly lost someone close to him and starts off by seeking a photograph in a drawer to help him remember: “a piece of clothing you were wearing, / the color. I wanted to remember its shade, / how it opened off your shoulder, disengaged.” He shares little memories about letters, instructions on how to keep the doors open to let the heat blow through the house, and a time when he thinks his loved one may be a presence in the house:
I thought I heard
you turn the corner,
and followed your footsteps down the hall,
thought I saw the curtains part in the bedroom,
the sunlight open like a pair of wings.
The pain, but also the remembered joy and love, are so clear in this poem, a reminder of how hard it would be to stay in the same house after losing someone you loved so deeply—and yet, how could you leave? This is where they were last; this is where the memories of them are strongest.
Throughout this issue of Nimrod International Journal, I found so many heartwarming and heart-wrenching poems and stories about home: the loss of home or the finding of home, each one intertwined in memory, love, happiness, and sadness. I will treasure this issue for years to come, and I hope others will find the same enjoyment as I found in its pages.