Available open access online with the ability to order quality print copy, reading Star 82 Review is like walking through an old home and discovering all kinds of cool nooks and crannies. It is filled with imagination and smart and searing perspectives succinctly conveyed in poetry and prose, including Word + Image, art, and erasure text. Each issue is identified by an erasure poem featured on the front cover. This issue: “applying for worlds of compromises and empathy.”
Compromises and empathy resound throughout the works in this issue, all of which are brief snapshots, portraits, and perspectives on the human condition of interacting with others. Daryl Scroggins contributes several that are a standout for their slice-of-life quality, such as “Getting Out More” which recounts the kind of inane conversation many readers can relate to. It begins: “He said Do you want to go for a walk? and I said Where? and he said You don’t really have to pick a place to go when you take a walk.” And ends as many such frustrating conversations do.
“Black + White = Hispanic” by Joe Albanese is another disturbingly too-real conversation in which an off-duty police officer comes to the aid of two Home Depot workers who have been alerted to look for a lost child. When the officer asks what the child looks like, the following exchange takes place:
I said, “He’s six years old and mixed race. Half-white, half-black.”
The cop asked, “He’s Mexican?”
The cashier and I both took a beat, reconstructing what I said. Maybe I included or excluded something crucial that would lead to such a conclusion.
“No,” the cashier explained while I was still bewildered. “His mother is black and his father is white.”
The so-called cop said, “Right, he’s Hispanic.”
Now what do you do in this situation?
Real conversation or not is difficult to tell since Star 82 does not differentiate between fiction and nonfiction submissions, but in a case like this, it’s exactly the kind of scene we don’t want to believe could be real. The workers feel the same way, and their response is the very compromise that shows how we are all faced with making these kinds of contextual decisions in our daily lives.
Ricardo José González-Rothi’s “Blindsided” is another shocker interaction, but—perhaps—for better this time, relating an encounter between a man in his truck attempting to aid a homeless-looking man out in a rain storm by handing him an umbrella:
I have a flower arrangement on the passenger seat that my wife ordered for my retirement party. The man peeks over the window into the seat. Water drips off his balding forehead and down his nose and chin.
[. . . ]
“Beautiful flowers!” He looks into the seat inside the cab of the truck.
“Yes, they are. Umbrella?”
Sharing more than the umbrella in the moments that follow leave both the narrator of the story and the reader with a much bigger gift in return than expected.
Similarly, in Susan Paprocki’s “Cemetery Visits,” the narrator recalls her childhood, creating a portrait of her eccentric single mother, whom doctors diagnosed as depressed and prescribed drugs:
“They make me feel lonely,” she said and flushed them down the toilet. It seemed she simply did not need to be blanketed in human conversation. She never desired the applause or winks of approvals of others. She simply needed books. The cemetery, with its unique lay of the land, was the ideal setting as it provided play opportunities that kept us occupied while mother read in peace.
On a visit home as an adult, the narrator returns to the cemetery with her mother, just like old times:
That afternoon at the cemetery I longed to ask if she ever needed me or any of her kids, or a friend, anyone. Instead I asked what was going on with the Bennet sisters even though I knew by heart the plot and subplots of every Jane Austin novel.
Mother was beaming, apparently thrilled I asked.
While childhood recollections and adult judgement can be harsh on parents and their choices, the narrator in Paprocki’s story helps build an empathy that carries through to the conclusion: we each need to find our own connections and ways of loving family.
The poetry (or prose poems—identified as “Hidden Gems”) is equally strong in its approach to story and perspectives on compromise and empathy. Most is so brief, it’s difficult to quote excerpts, so I can offer a few that presented enticing starter lines:
“Clean” by Sam McParland:
I am twelve.
I am wearing a shirt my mother helped me iron this morning,
crisp and striped.
My body smelling of soap, soft to the touch.
Hair freshly washed.
I am standing in the National Portrait Gallery,
cradled in a large empty corridor.
“At the Farm” by Hannah Rousselot:
Chickens are the softest animals
that I have pet so far. I know because even
when my mom saw me touch the hen,
even when she half screamed,
“Nohoneytheyhavegerms!” I couldn’t
take my hand off the silky smooth feathers
“Woke Up This Morning” by Ed Gold:
on the wrong side of the bed,
in the wrong bed,
wrong part of town.
“Fish Ladder” by Elaine Mintzer:
Imagine a concrete incline with steps
no feet will tread;
how our bodies, scaled with rainbows, wrestle
water to leap upstream
The artwork in this issue contributes greatly to reader enjoyment, with erasure text by Giancarlo Riccobon, embroidery pieces by Claudia Moore and Lucia Dill, and multicolored woodcut prints by Cathie Crawford. The artwork and text complement each other, as sometimes does the flow from one work to the next, showing an intentionality and sensitive consciousness regarding placement on the part of the editor. (At least in print; on the website, readers can click on content in any order.)
With a clear attention to such details and the quality of submissions for this twenty-second installment of Star 82 Review, readers and writers alike should definitely turn an eye to this publication. Its established history gives this journal a reputation I expect will continue to be upheld.