With so much to do in a day and so much to read in a lifetime, I always appreciate a little magazine that I can read in one sitting or fit into the straining seams of my bag. Word Fountain fulfilled my little lit mag needs, the Spring/Summer 2017 Issue a 50-page companion I carried with me for the past week. Produced by the Osterhout Free Library in Wilkes-Barre, PA, each issue makes sure to feature a portion of regional writers, seven of whom are in this edition.
Raymond Cummings, one of the seven, pens two poems, “The Animating Spark” and “Jazz & Classical,” and I am fond of the former. While recounting an earth-shattering moment, “When you turned away,” the speaker describes images that end up being beautiful despite the assumed heartache: “Monarchs / descended into a yellow haze of irises / and lilacs. Fireflies slashed out like distant stars.” The effect is bittersweet and reading it in the summer dusk of my backyard set the mood perfectly.
The cover of the issue, designed by Associate Editor Erin L. Mazzoni, fits the summer mood as well, a hazy close-up of bees on honeycomb with warm shades of yellow. I thought of the cover—or more specifically the bees—while reading Jonathan Greenhause’s “There Aren't Any Ducks in the Duck Pond,” which continues to detail how:
if we try hard enough,
we can put the ducks back into the duck pond,
put the water back into water, remove
purify the air, suck back
plastic buried in soil & set afloat in our oceans.
Bees are dying, there aren’t ducks in the pond named after them, the poem a reminder of our environment’s health and our responsibility toward it. Or maybe it’s too late, the speaker concluding the duck pond problem, “so let's accept what it’s become // & rename it accordingly.”
In fiction, the second-person narrator of Joe Baumann’s “Miners” handles his problems by erasing them. Reminiscent of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, “Miners” features a reality where memories can be erased—or mined—at a price. The macabre procedure is chilling, “you” sitting in a repurposed dentist’s chair, “yellow stuffing clumping around the strips of duct tape that catch on the holes in your jeans,” and “your” head is drilled into, memories of a mystery man slowly being mined away. But then:
You scramble to cling to something: the shape of his nose, the silkiness of his young biceps, the lilt of his voice. Whoever he is. Someone you met once, you're sure. You don't know who, or why, or what, only that something in you wants to fight against what's being done to you. Even though you know you're here because of something deeply wrong, some sin you've committed, you cannot remember what it is.
Baumann leaves readers questioning if forgetting everything—the good as well as the bad—is worth it, or if it ends up taking much more away than just memories.
Baumann’s is one of just two prose gems this issue (the other is “Just Exactly Like” by Philip Athans), so this is an especially good one for poetry fans to pick up. Word Fountain promises to showcase regional writers and they meet that goal while simultaneously appealing to a wider geographical audience. With a variety of poetry and talented prose, the Spring/Summer 2017 issue is one to make a little room for in your beach bag this summer.